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Full text of "The story of the Lafayette escadrille told by its commander, Captain Georges Thenault"

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THE STORY OF THE 
LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 




Portrait of the author, Captain Tlienault, 
coiiiniandins the Lafavette Escadriile. 



The Story of the 
LaFayette Escadrille 

TOLD BY ITS COMMANDER 
CAPTAIN GEORGES THENAULT 

TRANSLATED BY 
WALTER DURANTY 



WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY 

ANDRE TARDIEU 

High Commissioner of Franco-American Aflairs 




BOSTON 

SMALL, MAYNARD & COMPANY 

PUBLISHERS 



Copyright, 1921, 

By small, MAYNARD & COMPANY 

(incorpokated) 



- At 

i 6 



To THE Memory of 



CHAPMAN, 

ROCKWELL, 

PRINCE, 

MacCONNELL, 

GENET, 

DRESSY, 



HOSKIER, 

DE LAAGE, DE Meux, 

MacMONAGLE. 

CAMPBELL, 

LUFBERY. 



MY COMPANIONS IN ARMS, 
A TRIBUTE OF SUPREME ADMIRATION. 



J177584 



PREFACE 

My dear Captain, 

I accept with pleasure the task of introducing 
your fine book to the French and American pub- 
lic, — firstly because it gives me yet another op- 
portunity of honoring the glorious dead and the 
heroic living of your gallant escadrille, and sec- 
ondly because I wish myself to express the high 
esteem that I feel for you, its commander during 
nearly two years. 

You have wished to put on record, for the en- 
lightenment of new generations in France and 
America, the story of the volunteers who served 
under your orders and gave so noble a response 
to the deed of La Fayette, whom they chose as 
their namesake. More than a century apart, the 
great ancestor and your young Americans were 
inspired by the same passion of Liberty. It was 
your duty to bear witness to their exploits. 

You have told this story of heroism with a 



Vlll 



PREFACE 



sincere simplicity which recommends it not only 
to literary critics but to all young people who 
take delight in noble deeds. To obtain this re- 
sult all you needed was to tell what you had done 
and what you had seen. 

The first American volunteers of your esca- 
drille began their service in the Foreign Legion. 
They wished to fight to defend Liberty, which 
France incarnated and protected. 

Some months later, as aviation developed, they 
were able to begin their training as pilots. In 
April, 1916, the creation of the American esca- 
drille was decided, and from that moment this 
escadrille took part in every great action. Dur- 
ing twenty-one months it was to be seen over every 
important battlefield. 

First came Verdun, where you won your 
earliest glorious laurels with 146 fights and 13 
enemy planes defeated. Then the Vosges, and 
the Somme — a period when the supremacy of al- 
lied aviation became manifest, a period of heroic 
combats, in which the Sioux, which you took as 
your emblem, won a terrible reputation in the 
enemy's ranks. It was then that you became the 
"Lafayette Escadrille." 



PREFACE ix 

In the United States the exploits of your esca- 
drille had — I could see that for myself — a great 
moral influence, and the example of your volun- 
teers was an inspiration to many of their country- 
men. We never doubted what America's deci- 
sion would be ; but since your pilots were the fore- 
runners theirs will be the glory. 

The war dragged on and you never rested. . . . 
After the Somme came the battle of the Aisne, 
then Flanders, then the return to Verdun where 
you collaborated in the recapture of the Mort- 
Homme and the Hill 304. A magnificent cita- 
tion was the reward of your splendid efforts. I 
desire to reproduce it here: 

"Escadrille formed of American volunteers 
come to fight for France in the purest spirit of 
sacrifice, carried on without truce under the com- 
mand of Captain Thenault a burning struggle 
against our enemies. 

"In very severe combats and at the price of 
heavy losses, which far from weakening it only 
raised its morale, brought down 28 enemy aero- 
planes. 

"Won the profound admiration of the Chiefs 
who had it under their orders, and of the French 



X PREFACE 

escadrilles which fighting beside it were spurred 
to gallant rivalry." 

That is a patent of nobility granted for ever 
to those who survive as to those who have fallen, 
to whom you piously dedicate your book: Prince, 
Chapman, Rockwell, MacConnell, Genet, Dressy, 
Hoskier, De Laage de Meux, MacMonagle, 
Campbell, Lufbery! 

Let us keep green in our hearts the memory 
of these heroes. They loved France with the 
same love that we feel for America, pure and 
disinterested. They have taught us by their 
willing sacrifice our common "duty to maintain 
and strengthen the union between the two great 
peoples. They have shown the way, it is for us 
to follow it. They died that a new world might 
be born, it is for us to put into reality their glori- 
ous purpose. 

To prepare this future, there is nothing so val- 
uable as the knowledge of the past we have 
shared. I thank you for having understood this 
and for having given, by your book, to the two 
fraternal Democracies, so splendid a reason for 
better mutual esteem and mutual affection. 

Andre Tardieu. 



INTRODUCTORY 

This story of the Escadrille Lafayette is in no 
sense official — it is personal. I have not sought 
to give an account so much of what was accom- 
plished in the air as of our intimacy — the life 
we led together and our surroundings in repose. 
I have refrained particularly from extolling any 
one above his comrades. Each played well his 
part. All made good. 

To a few, like Norman Prince, Lufbery, Rock- 
well and Chapman, has fallen most of the honor 
of publicity, but they had the loyal support of 
the squadron in their exploits and to them came 
the glory of death. They gave their lives, as all 
were ready to do, but fate claimed them. 

Those who were spared did their part as well 
as their temperament and opportunity permitted. 

Some men are born-fighters : 

They who look beyond the night, 
They who see in dawn's pale light, 
One more day in which to fight — 
Those no death can stop. 



xii INTRODUCTORY 

The gloria certaminis is to such an inspiration 
and may be said to give an advantage over others, 
less gifted, in the contest, but they are not the 
less to be admired who went in on their nerve and 
pluck. 

Fighting in the air requires the highest quali- 
ties of combat for in the fuller sense the aviator 
contends alone. He is not in touch with his 
commander or his comrades. He has not the in- 
fluence of the close contact, the shoulder to shoul- 
der morale that is found in the line of battle 
below him. The aviator flies in the deafening 
clamor of his motor; no word of warning or 
command can reach him. He cannot stand still. 
He is ever in motion at great speed. He must 
depend upon himself and above all upon his ma- 
chine, — a delicate instrument and of limited 
flight. We were a fighting not a bombing 
squadron and our Nieuport de Chasses carried 
motive power for some two hours only. 

Again aviation was a new science, a develop- 
ment of the war, and there was not a class of 
experienced men from which to draw. They 
had to learn the art under fire. They who went 
over the top on the battlefield were men trained 



INTRODUCTORY xiii 

to establish theories of war and led by profes- 
sional experts in those theories. 

The Aviators had no such advantage. They 
were trained to fly and but little more until ex- 
perience evolved a system of attack and defense. 

Aviation was also the most dangerous of all 
the branches of the army for the machine itself 
was even more fatal than the guns of the Enemy. 
Besides, as a practical engine of war the real 
test of all new types was made at the front with 
all its accompanying risks. 

I may say even that every aviator entered the 
service knowing that he was flying to his end — 
none faltered — all were volunteers. Honor to 
the heroes of America who joyfully devoted them- 
selves to death for the great cause they repre- 
sented. 

A word as to the credit of originating the 
squadron. It belongs to Norman Prince, who 
first conceived the idea of bringing together his 
countrymen with some of those of the foreign 
legion in a squadron of flyers to be known as 
the Escuadrille Americaine. Cooperating with 
Prince were Cowden and Thaw. They were its 
founders and were always recognized as such, 



xiv INTRODUCTORY 

which gave them a certain prestige willingly ac- 
corded by the others in their mutual relations. 

These three did not foresee that they were 
building better than they knew. Primarily their 
object was to serve France and beat the Boche. 
They loved France. 

But the result of their endeavour was far reach- 
ing. Their example, their readiness to die for 
the cause they espoused and above all the glorious 
deaths of Chapman, Rockwell and Norman 
Prince — I follow the order of their fall — aroused 
their compatriots from the doubt of neutrality to 
a comprehension of the vital issues at stake — the 
safety of Liberty, the preservation of Democracy. 
The sacrifice of their young lives stirred their 
countrymen beyond all argument of words — 
theirs was the propaganda by deeds, and they 
won out. 

Thus they were the precursors of that mighty 
awakening of the West, — of that gigantic effort 
of America — unparalleled in history — the great- 
est of all crusades — ^where every qualified fight- 
ing man was enrolled under the Stars and Stripes, 
for no selfish aim, for no world-conquest, but for 
the great ideals upon which civilization depends 



INTRODUCTORY xv 

and for which the entire resources of the nation 
were unsparingly contributed to assure victory. 

As I look back through the eyes of Memory on 
the eager, fearless, genial band that I had in 
charge — each so loyal, all so resolute, I think of 
those lines by the Bayard of Scottish Chivalry — 
Montrose — who died for his cause: 

"He either fears his fate too much 
Or his deserts are small 
That dares not put it to the touch 
To win or lose it all." 



G. T. 



My men so dared. 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTER I 

Origin of the Escadrille — ^The Foreign Legion — How 
the idea of creating an American Escadrille arose . 1 

CHAPTER II 

Luxeuil — Calptain H,appe! — Aldace — First flights — 
First successes 18 

CHAPTER III 

Verdun — A Great Battle at its height — Chapman — 
The Escadrille distinguishes itself .... 47 

CHAPTER IV 
Paris 
Life on leave — ^Return to Luxeuil — Kiffin Rockwell 
— ^Norman Prince 66 

CHAPTIER V 

The Somme — Cachy Wood — Amiens— Winter . . 88 

CHAPTER VI 

Spring and renewed activity — General advance — 
Lossesr— Ham— Chaudun — Battle of the Aisne . 109 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTER VII p^cE 

Battle of Flanders — Return to Verdun — Lufbery — 
Beauties of life in the air 133 

CHAPTER VIII 

Return to Chaudun — Trip to Champagne — ^Transfer 
of the Escadrille to the American Army — Fare- 
weU 164 



THE STORY OF THE 
LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

CHAPTER I 

Origin of the Escadrille — The Foreign Legion — How the 
Idea of creating an American Escadrille arose 

The LaFayette Escadrille did not spring fully 
armed into being. Its creation was a work of 
difficulty and attended by no small delay. 

When war broke out between France and Ger- 
many many were those who hurried from all 
parts of the world to volunteer for the defence of 
France. 

Once again Germany was evidently the ag- 
gressor and all those whose spirit urged them 
towards justice had no hesitation as to which side 
they should choose. 

Naturally in a strong, healthy race like that 
of the United States, with its hundred years of 
sympathy for France, the adventurous nature 
of the game to be played appealed to every one 
who shared the American instinct for helping 



2 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

the weak against the strong. In this case the 
weaker was France, with her population a third 
smaller and her armaments limited by a delib- 
erately pacifist policy, face to face with Ger- 
many, the country of the dry powder and the 
sharpened sword, where each New Year saw the 
military budget formidably increased. 

Among the Americans, first were naturally 
those who were already in France. But volun- 
teering for the French army was no easy business, 
and proved enough to discourage the most de- 
termined will. Enquirers were sent from office 
to office ; they were asked for papers and yet more 
papers, but they refused to be discouraged. 
They got their friends to act for them and finally 
their perseverance took the bureaucratic resist- 
ance by assault, and they managed to sign their 
engagement as volunteers at the Invalides, the 
very place where in 1792 the Parisians had come 
to volunteer when the country had been declared 
in danger and the National Assembly issued its 
call to arms. 

Some of them tried to get into the aviation, 
like Norman Prince, Elliot Cowdin and William 
Thaw, already brilliant pilots. But that was out 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 3 

of the question; there were not enough machines 
for our own French pilots. We began the war 
with 80 machines. Moreover, everything for- 
eign was regarded with a certain suspicion. Ger- 
many had organized her network of espionage 
so thoroughly that the French authorities at that 
time fancied they saw spies everywhere. They 
were afraid even of their best friends. 

The only legal way for a foreigner to enter 
the French army was to join the Foreign Legion 
as a second-class soldier. If one was of age 
and of strong constitution no other conditions 
were needed. 

What lay before them was the life of the foot- 
soldier, that is, the greatest risk, the lack of all 
comforts, a monotonous and wearisome existence, 
glory always hidden and limited, and, we may 
as well admit it, to pass one's life side by side — 
among brave and honest men — with some who 
were brave also but for whom the Legion had 
bef,n a refuge from the justice of their country. 

The future was not rosy, therefore, but in their 
fear of being too late, fear which maddened them 
against the apathy opposed to their desires, the 
Americans did not hesitate. 



4 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

No matter what happened, no matter where it 
might be, they wanted to fight. 

They all saw themselves already on the front, 
rifle in hand bringing down the Boche, the mo- 
ment their engagement was signed. . . . Yet an- 
other disillusion. . . . What came next was the 
life in a training camp in the South of France, 
with weary marches on the dusty roads. The 
war was going to be a test of patience and en- 
durance. The noblest spirit must be trained to 
endure even if it should lose some of its fire in 
the process. 

Meanwhile on the front the Legion was doing 
its duty bravely at the price of heavy losses. 

About the 15th of September, 1914, reinforce- 
ments were demanded from the depot to fill up 
the gaps in the ranks, to reinforce the old Legion- 
aries, heroes of Africa and Tonkin. 

The first choice was to fall on those who had 
seen previous service in any army. All our 
Americans came forward with long stories of 
imaginary campaigns in Mexico or the South 
American Republics. 

The officer in charge of the depot asked at this 
time for volunteers to stay some months longer at 




c 



O 







Different types of bombs dropped by aeroplanes. 



/ 

THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 5 y 

the rear and take a further course of instruction 
with a view to becoming officers. All the Ameri- 
cans declined and at the beginning of October 
they all found themselves at the front in the sec- 
tors of Rheims and Craonnelle. Now for des- 
perate bayonet charges against a gallant foe to 
the blast of the bugle; now for the battle to the 
death in which their skill, courage and strength 
were bound to triumph. . . . Yet another dis- 
illusion. 

The soldier's life was not what our heroes 
imagined. Those were the days of organization 
when every one had to dig trenches, boyaux and 
shelters. Every night there was barbed wire to 
be put in position, and stakes to be hammered 
down with hammers muffled in rags, lest the ever- 
ready mitrailleus e, "the devil's coffee mill," as / 
the poilus called it, might begin to grind. Never 
an enemy to be seen except occasionally out of 
range through the shaky glass of a periscope. 

For food they had to bring everything from 
three andajialfjniles_in jtheL._rear, because the 
smoke of the kitchens made them only too easily 
spotted. This whole distance had to be traversed 
at night across country cut into ravines, in whose 



-4i 




6 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

depths stagnant marshes lay hidden. Often the 
fatigue party upset their buckets falling head over 
heels over some obstacle, and the food that 
reached the first lines was alwayj_.coM and gen- 
erally mixed with mud. Once the battalion to 
which our Americans belonged tried to bring its 
kitchens up nearer. The Boche immediately 
spotted their smoke and that very evening twenty 
men were killed and wounded among their stoves 
by a single shell. They had to move them back 
again post-haste. 

It was a hard life for our Americans. Winter 
became very severe from November; 25° of frost 
and no proper means of withstanding it ; no warm 
shelters, no heavy clothes, not even straw. And 
they had to stay thirty days at a time in the 
front lines through lack of troops to relieve them. 

It was war in all its misery, dirt and squalor. 
No means of getting clean, no water to wash in, 
all of them covered with vermin. Great courage 
and great discipline were needed to endure this 
hell, but Joffre had said at the Marne: "Die 
rather than retreat"; the watchword was still the 
same. 

First of all they had to hold on. They held 



I 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 7 

on, and gradually, thanks to hard work, experi- 
ence and ingenuity, conditions got better. These 
were the days when all the women in France 
from chateau to cottage set themselves to knit 
furiously, and gradually a supply of warm cloth- 
ing began to reach the front. 

The Americans were in a comparatively quiet 
sector, for at this period the limited production 
of munitions was only just enough for the storm 
centres, which then were concentrated around the 
Yser. So losses were not heavy and the first 
American wounded was Bouligny, by a shrapnel 
ball, in November. 

The desperate monotony of trench life was only 
broken by incessant sentry-go at the lookout posts 
and by an occasional night patrol in No Man^ \ 
Land. For the latter volunteers were always \ 
called for, and the Americans were in every \ 
party. 

Their active spirits found it even harder to 
bear than did their comrades. In December 
Thaw and two others managed to transfer to the 
aviation, declaring that they had pilot's certifi- 
cates. After a few weeks as observer at Esca- 
drille Deperdussin 6, Thaw managed to pass as 



8 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

pilot by the aid of Captain Degorge, command- 
ing the Escadrille, and went off for his training 
on a Caudron at the aerodrome of Buc, taking 



his two friends with him. Thaw, who had flown 
a Curtiss, handled the Caudron without any dif- 
ficulty, but the others had also said they were 
pilots and now it was up to them to prove it. 
One of them, Bert Hall, played the bluff out. 
He climbed alone into the machine that he was 
to try. It was the first time in his life that he 
had seen an aeroplane close to. 

Off he went zig-zagging like a drunken duck, 
actually left the ground, but crashed headlong 
into the wall of a hangar. The machine was in 
pieces, but they picked him up unhurt to hear 
their verdict on his qualifications as a pilot. 
Then he began his training at the beginning. 

Early in 1915 another American declared at 
the Avord school that he was a pilot and that 
he had even flown for long distances in Massa- 
chusetts. He was so vehement that they gave 
him a machine. He went off like a rocking 
horse, rose to 1500 feet, and from there dived 
headlong with motor full on. He never tried to 
flatten out and the machine crashed into frag- 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 9 

ments on the ground. It was literally reduced to 
match wood, but the pilot was picked up with 
nothing worse than a fractured knee. Extraor- 
dinary luck! . . . His name was Hardouin and 
he too had never been in a plane before. 

In March,.1915, Thaw had passed all his tests 
and was sent at once to an Escadrille that was 
being formed at Nancy — the C. 42. 

There he immediately distinguished himself 
in artillery observation and scouting. Once with 
his mechanic he tried to fight a Boche plane, his 
passenger having no other arm but a Winchester 
carbine. Thus equipped they cruised for hours 
over the lines, but the machine was too slow for 
them to overtake enemy planes, at that time few 
in number, but rather more numerous than our 
own. 

In July, 1915, Thaw got a double motor Cau- 
dron G. 4, a much more powerful machine which 
could carry a mitrailleuse firing from in front. 
Then he was perfectly happy. But he wasn't yet 
able to bring down a Boche as his mitrailleuse 
used constantly to Jam. Nevertheless he used to 
fly perseveringly for hours, indifferent to the cold. 

At this time Escadrille 42, of which I had 



10 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

just taken command, was at Luneville. It used 
to go off and bombard the station of Metz, called 
"les Sablons." The Boches used to let us ac- 
complish our job without interruption. Their 
Albatros would rise from the aerodrome of Fras- 
cati but fly low to protect the Zeppelin hangars 
without daring to get far away from the anti- 
aircraft guns that protected them. 

As Autumn passed into Winter the Escadrille 
was employed in "spotting" for our artillery 
against the big gun which the Boches had in- 
stalled at Hampont to fire on Nancy. We man- 
aged to photograph this gun; then the bad 
weather of Winter brought a comparative truce. 

The originator of the Escadrille was Nor- 
man Prince. He had passed a good deal of his 
life in France as his family lived at Pau, where 
his father was Master of the celebrated pack of 
foxhounds. In October, 1914, Prince had come 
forward to volunteer for the French army, but 
had only been able to get himself accepted in the 
Spring of '15. As he too was already a pilot 
he was able to continue his training in our 
schools. Then he passed into a bombing squad- 
ron which distinguished itself in Lorraine and 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 11 

Artois. With a Voisin machine, fitted wath an 
inch and a half gun, Prince was one of the first 
to devote himself to observation balloon chasing. 

Bert Hall and Bach had been sent to the school 
at Pau. At the beginning they weren't very 
lucky in their training; indeed they smashed 
several machines. This fact, especially after 
their previous assertions that they knew how to 
fly, brought down on them the attention of the 
authorities, who began to ask if they weren't 
really spies trying to ruin our material and in- 
terfere with the training of pilots. Naturally 
there was no result to an enquiry on the subject, 
and after a short time they both became so com- 
petent as to be passed into a fighting squadron at 
the front. They flew Morane "parasols" whose 
great speed — for those days — of 70 miles an 
hour, made them first choice for fighting and 
long distance scouting. 

One day Bach went off on a special mission, 
the dangerous job of putting down behind the 
enemy's lines a customs officer with a cage of 
carrier pigeons. He had already accomplished 
several of these missions successfully, which 
wasn't easy, for the Boches had a nasty habit 



12 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

of spotting the ground where an airman was 
likely to land and upsetting his machine by means 
of hidden wires. Both pilot and passenger thus 
captured were invariably shot without trial. 

When one realizes the ordinary difficulty of 
starting an aeroplane at that time when the mo- 
tor was nearly always tricky, to say nothing of 
the risks of capture, one can realize what courage 
was needed by the men employed in this work. 

Bach landed all right, but broke his propellor 
in a ditch just as he was getting away. The 
Boches ran up and captured him. Luckily his 
passenger had escaped with his civilian clothes 
and his carrier pigeons. But the Boches tried 
Bach before two court-martials although they 
hadn't the slightest proof against him. He con- 
ducted his own defense with the greatest skill and 
managed to escape the firing squad. 

Newcomers in the aviation, Cowdin, Chap- 
man, Kiffin Rockwell and MacConnell, spent 
the last part of the year 1915 in completing their 
training as pilots at Avord and Pau. Prince, 
Cowdin, and Thaw went to spend Christmas, 
1915, in the United States, where, as one might 
expect, they received the warmest of welcomes. 




Funeral of Adjutant Prince. 




Guvnenier. 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 13 

But they didn't waste their time and as result 
of their example and the publicity given to their 
exploits they found many eager to imitate them. 
The press took them up strongly and from this 
time public opinion in the United States began 
to regard the American pilots with pride as the 
nucleus of an American army in France. 

The pro-German newspapers loudly demanded 
their arrest, or at least that they should be for- 
bidden to return to France. But the United 
States Government shut its eyes and they all 
came back to their post at the appointed time. 

January, 1916, they reached Paris. During 
the journey back they had often discussed the 
question of forming an American Escadrille, 
composed solely of American volunteers. 

Doubtless they were hardly numerous enough 
yet at the front, but besides the Foreign Legion, 
there was another source which supplied Ameri- 
can pilots to our aviation schools. I refer to the 
Ambulance Corps. A plane moved faster than 
their Fords laden with wounded; it would be 
more sport, and they also felt that they could thus 
serve France's cause more directly. 

An American Committee had been formed to 



\b 



14 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

aid, encourage and recruit these pilots, and the 
first thing our young friends did on their return 
from America was to lay the project before it. 
The Committee at once espoused the idea of 
uniting all the American pilots in a single Esca- 
drille. 

At the head of this Committee were a distin- 
guished French diplomat, Monsieur de Sillac, 
^nd Dr. Gros, the American surgeon of the Au- 
tomobile Ambulance Section of the Field Service. 
One can never thank them enough for what they 
did, and we must also mention the valuable as- 
sistance which Mr. and Mrs. Vanderbilt gave to 
all the pilots who volunteered through this Com- 
mittee. Soldiers in the French Army received 
one cent a day, no more. Our Americans found 
it insufficient but thanks to these benefactors they 
were able to live comfortably. 

At the time when Prince, Cowdin and Thaw 
came back from America I happened to be on 
leave in Paris, having left my Escadrille in 
Nancy. I met them in the Rue Royale. 

I was delighted with the idea, and after hav- 
ing discussed at considerable length with them 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 15 

how we should best set about it I accompanied 
them on their round of visits from office to office. 
We were helped by an Italian journalist Mr. 
Boggiano, who had just come back from America, 
and who knew some of our French public men. 
He introduced us to M. Pichon, manager Direc- 
tor of the Petit Journal, who is now Foreign Min- 
ister, and who promised to do his best for us. 

The following day we went to see the Air Min- 
ister, Rene Besnard, who also said he would 
help us. The keenest supporter of the plan was 
Norman Prince, who declined to recognize diffi- 
culties. I had to calm him down or he'd have 
sent an ultimatum then and there to all the 
French authorities. 

The Air Minister decided to permit the crea- 
tion of this Escadrille in principle. While wait- 
ing for its actual formation Prince, Cowdin, and 
Thaw received permission to train on fighting 
planes. I went back to Nancy, which, however, 
I left shortly afterwards on a hurried summons 
to Verdun, where the Germans had just launched 
their great attack. Shortly after my arrival 
Thaw and Cowdin, whose training was finished, 



^ 

^ 



16 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

telephoned me from Paris saying how eager they 
were to begin work, and I managed to get them 
attached to a neighbouring battle squadron. 

The officer in charge of aviation at General 
Headquarters, Major Bares, a man who took a 
big and farsighted view of things, was won 
over to the idea of an American Escadrille as 
soon as I spoke to him of it. He was able to 
appoint pilots on the front, and the Minister 
furnished mechanics and material at the begin- 
ning of April. 

The battle of Verdun had then been raging 
for a month and a half, which made it difficult 
to move pilots about and consequently delayed 
the formation of the Escadrille. 

How delighted I was when finally I received 
the order giving me the command of the Ameri- 
can Escadrille — as we called it in those days. 
As my second I had obtained the appointment of 
my faithful friend Lt. de Laage de Meux, whose 
merits I had learned to appreciate while com- 
manding a group of battle plane pilots in the 
Verdun sector. 

I went off post-haste to Lyons to get the ten 
tractors, the four camions, the two light auto- 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 17 

mobiles and the eighty men, mechanics, drivers, 
cooks, secretaries, quartermasters, etc., which 
form an escadrille. From Lyons I sent the ma- 
terial and personnel in a special train to Luxeuil 
(Upper Saone) where the Escadrille was to be 
formed. All the pilots ready received their or- 
ders to join up there immediately, the 18th of 
April, 1916. The Quartermaster-Sergeant, a 
fine fellow named Deville, sharpened his pencils 
and opened his account book. The American 
Escadrille N° 124 had come into being. 






CHAPTER II 

Luxeuil — Captain Happe — Alsace — First flights — First 
Successes 

On the 20th of April, Chapman, Kiffin Rock- 
well, Norman Prince and MacConnell were the 
first to arrive. Thaw and Elliot Cowdin, whose 
work kept them on the Verdun front, only came 
a few days later, as did Bert Hall. 

I went to introduce my pilots to Captain 
Happe, who commanded the Luxeuil bombing 
group. 

Captain Happe — in the aviation we called him 
the "Red Pirate" — was famous for his mad reck- 
lessness, which was only equalled by his luck. 
He had been four times with his mechanic to 
bomb the Zeppelin factory at Friedrichshafen. 
He had turned his mitrailleuse on a train sixty 
miles behind the Boche lines and had made so 
many victims that the enemy put a price of 
25,000 marks upon his head. He was worth 
more. 

He always played the "lone wolf" game, fly- 
is 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 19 

ing an old 80 H. P. Maurice Farrnan nick- 
named the "chicken-coop" because it had such 
a network of wires in it. It had been built es- 
pecially for him and was of pre-historic type — 
good enough for family touring but quite un- 
suitable for war. This machine only made forty 
miles an hour, but its wing surface was so great 
that it could carry a hundredweight of bombs and 
lots of gasoline. The slowest enemy machine 
could easily overtake it, play around it at will, 
and shoot it up at pleasure. The mechanic was 
armed with a Winchester carbine or a cavalry 
musket, which he fired as best he could, some- 
times even athwart the propellor. The "chicken- 
coop" often came back with dozens of bullet 
holes in its canvas framework, and even in the 
propellor, but fortunately only the cage suffered, 
the "chickens" never got a scratch. 

Captain Happe once conceived the idea of 
landing in Germany far behind the lines, near 
some little railroad station, and carrying off the 
station-master as prisoner in his plane so as to 
get information from him. Luckily his superiors 
formally forbade him to attempt this exploit for 
fear that he would never come back. 



20 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

To enable him to work on a bigger scale a 
bombing group of four escadrilles had been 
given him formed of the same type of machines 
as his own. But the luck which had favoured 
him did not hold for his subordinates, although 
they were all remarkably skilled and courageous 
pilots, who had begged to serve in his group well 
knowing the dangers that awaited them. His 
second in command, Lt. Almonacid, an Argen- 
tine pilot as brave as he was skilful, took part 
in all their expeditions. To reduce losses he 
had wisely suggested that they should fly by 
night — then a novelty — until they should receive 
better machines. 

When I entered Happe's office to introduce the 
pilots of my escadrille we found him writing the 
addresses on eight little boxes, sealed with seal- 
ing-wax, which were in a row on his table. I 
had known him a long time and after having 
presented my pilots by name I asked what he was 
doing. He replied: "These boxes contain the 
eight war crosses which I am sending to the fam- 
ilies of the eight pilots who were brought down 
by the Boches the last time we bombed Habs- 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 21 

heim!!!" As an introductory remark that 
wasn't very encouraging. True, some Boches 
had been brought down also. One airman, Cap- 
tain X , seeing his machine had caught fire, 

hurled himself upon the enemy who thought him- 
self already victorious, and they fell to death to- 
gether. Marinkowitch brought another down 
point blank with his Breguet gun. However, 
the losses were heavy, and it was the intention of 
our Chiefs that our Escadrille, when fully or- 
ganized, should form a protection for Captain 
Happe's group, no light task as you will under- 
stand. So the Captain greeted us as saviours 
and exclaimed: "Hurry up and get ready as 
quick as you can so that we can work together." 
We all wanted the same thing though we knew 
what the work would be and how heavy our re- 
sponsibility. In the name of my pilots I prom- 
ised him to be a good watch-dog for his flock. 

For we were a real fighting escadrille, to our 
very great delight. We were to fly the baby- 
Nieuport, a machine which had made its ap- 
pearance four months before, "the machine of 
Aces and the Ace of machines" as we called it, 



22 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

the fastest and handiest with its 16 square yards 
of surface, 80 H. P. Rhone rotary motor and 
speed of 95 miles an hour. For that period it 
was a tremendous advance. The Nieuport had 
won its spurs at Verdun, where it clearly out- 
classed the Fokker. It was our only fighting 
plane and in the French army one was thought 
immensely fortunate to fly it. When you flew a 
"Baby," so-called on account of its small dimen- 
sions, you were stamped at once as a great pilot 
and the crowd of other pilots envied you bitterly. 
You were no longer a taxi-chauffeur, whose part 
is to take out an observer who does all the really 
useful work, but the honoured driver of the fast- 
est racing machine whose record-breaking speed 
and daring turns the press celebrated. 

To fly a fighting machine meant the hope of 
becoming a past master in flight. All the most 
wonderful acrobatic tricks might be yours. Na- 
varre had just invented aerial acrobatics with the 
spin, the renversement, the barrel ^ and had 

1 The spin is a rapid and jerky gyration of the machine round 
an axis generally vertical. When one doesn't expect it the impres- 
sion is very disagreeable. The machine is entirely out of control. 
If one doesn't get out of the spin a crash is inevitable. 

One gets into a spin as a result of a loss of speed. The machine 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 23 

brought to perfection the loop — words whose 
magic novelty had a glamour of their own. Only 
the Nieuports enabled us to accomplish these 
movements with full security and to approach 
our Boche with a disconcerting renversement or 
get away from him in the same way, manoeuvres 
which now form the A B C of fighting tactics, 
but were only just beginning to be perfected at 
that period. 

As armament we had a Lewis gun fixed on the 
upper plane and firing over the propellor (see 
photograph). This system had been discovered 

falls and if the controls, instead of being kept well in neutral, 
are in an unsymmetrical position the spin begins. 

To get out of the spin one should put the rudder to neutral if 
it is not there already, then push forward the joy stick and as 
soon as the spin breaks pull it back, bringing the plane to a level 
keel. Thus tlie spin is 'checked immediately and I camiot express 
tlie delight of a novice at feeling that once more he is handling 
a living machine which obeys him and not a dead thing over which 
he has no control. 

How many pilots have been killed in the early days of aviation 
because they did not know how to stop a spin. 

The barrel is a complete rotation of the machine around its 
horizontal a.xis. After the rotation one finds oneself in the same 
position and direction as before, simply a little further on in the 
same line of flight. 

The renversement is more or less a half barrel followed by a 
loss of speed. You are then in a direction opposite the former 
one. It is thus a very rapid change of direction, which is very 
much used in fighting. 



24 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

by our last hero Pegoud, with whom I had often 
flown over this same country of Alsace the pre- 
ceding year, and whom I had gradually seen put 
his wonderful idea into practice. 

This system enabled one to take position un- 
der an opponent's tail, to fire on him without his 
being able to see you, but it had certain draw- 
backs, due to the weapon, which I shall relate. 
To begin with, the drums of the machine gun 
only held 27 cartridges each. The Fokkers, 
however, had already adopted the system of the 
mitrailleuse firing through the screw by an ar- 
rangement of synchronization. Moreover our 
Lewis gun used to jam in 75 per 100 of our at- 
tacks owing to the effect of vibration, and many 
a Boche owed his life to that. So if we compared 
the Nieuport and the Fokker at that time, the 
former was superior as a machine in speed, 
handiness, climbing power and strength, but the 
Fokker had better armament. Taking them to- 
gether the Nieuport was nevertheless regarded as 
far superior on account of its power of manoeu- 
vring and the confidence which it gave to pilots. 
So that it was no small honour that had been 
done us in supplying us with machines that were 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 25 

then the favourites of all the Air kings of those 
days. 

At the beginning of the war fighting aviation 
didn't exist, and the first machines to be armed 
were Voisins with a "pusher" propeller, which 
were fitted with a Hotchkiss, according to the 
plans of Captain Mailfert. These machines were 
masters of the air until the end of 1914. With 
one of them Frantz had been the first French 
pilot to bring down a Boche in an air battle near 
Rheims. The Morane "Parasol" with a pas- 
senger armed with a carbine had held sway in 
1915, and an army was considered to be protected 
as far as the air was concerned when one ma- 
chine patrolled twenty-five or thirty miles of 
front. That was the best that could be done ow- 
ing to the lack of machines. 

In 1915 little single-seater fighting planes had 
begun to make their appearance. Then that 
great pilot Garros had had the idea of armour- 
plating the propellor of a small Morane so that 
he could fire his machine gun athwart the whirl- 
ing blade without fear of its being splintered 
by a bullet. Should any touch the propellor the 
armour deflected them and prevented damage. 



26 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

After several successes Garros had been captured 
in Flanders/ The Germans had copied his ma- 
chine and developed from it the Fokker. Gil- 
bert had gone on working where Garros had left 
off, and Pegoud had made further improvements 
on the Nieuport. He had been the first to fix a 
Lewis gun on the upper plane firing above the 
propellor. In 1915 I had worked with both these 
heroes, who had lost their lives, Pegoud in battle 
against a great armoured plane, and Gilbert by 
accident, and I had seen their efforts gradually 
crowned with success. I remember even one day 
while patrolling in a G-4 over the Vosges to- 
wards Kahler-Wasen my mitrailleur, a young 
observer, had poured a hail of bullets at Pegoud's 
Nieuport thinking that he was a Boche. Up to 
then we had never seen biplanes like his with the 
canvas covered tail. I spotted the French col- 
ours and by a sudden renversement put it out of 
my gunner's power to continue his fell design; 
but that evening by way of fine and excuse to 
Pegoud, and also to celebrate Gilbert's victory 

1 As all the world knows he succeeded in escaping after many 
abortive attempts, only to be killed in aerial combat a few weeks 
before the armistice. His death was mourned by the whole 
coimtry. 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 27 

over a big German biplane brought down at 
Thann, we had to buy a case of good champagne 
and some bottles of old Alsace wine. 

Up to 1916 all fighting was done singly and 
patrol work was rare, but at Verdun, at the be- 
ginning of '16, the Boches had started using pa- 
trols successfully. Indeed at first they had 
caused much perturbation in the ranks of our 
Farmans, good observation machines, but too 
slow and too unhandy for fighting. So, to re- 
taliate, we had had to follow suit and I had de- 
termined to spare no pains in training my pilots 
to fly in good formation. 

All we had to do was to wait for our machines 
which were coming from Paris by road on auto- 
mobile tractors. It was a fortnight before we 
got them, for Verdun, where France's destiny was 
at stake, consumed nearly all the available out- 
put. 

We established ourselves on the fine aerodrome 
of_Lij.xeuil, the biggest and most beautiful in 
France; it is over two miles long, entirely flat, 
surrounded by a circuit of high hills, the last out- 
posts of the Vosges mountains. 

The French used one end of it; at the other 



J 



28 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

were grouped British airmen of the Royal Navy, 
Canadians, Australians, or South Africans, of 
whom we shall have occasion to speak later. I 
found quarters for my pilots in the charming lit- 
tle town of Luxeuil Baths, a peaceful oasis, forty 
miles behind the lines, which had almost never 
had any troops stationed there and was delighted 
to welcome aviators. I have often seen friends 
who had spent some time at Luxeuil after us. 
They all told me "after your escadrille had gone 
away it was impossible to beat the good record 
that your Americans had left behind in the hearts 
of everyone. All were sorry to lose them." 

As its name shows, Luxeuil was a thermal 
watering place, an old town with Renaissance 
houses, curiously carved. In one of the finest 
Francis I once spent the night, and the house 
still bore his name. Lt. de Laage lived there 
while I established myself at Baths' Hotel. 

In the morning we all used to go down to 
the bath house and bathe in the pink granite 
pools where the elegant belles of Louis XV's 
reign had been wont to repair the weariness of 
court life. Most of our pilots stayed at the Ho- 



^# 









I'lesentation of flag to Lafayette Escadrille. 




Presentation of tla^ to Lafayette ICscadril 



(Jf 

THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 29 



vi/ 



tel of the Golden Apple, a really good old French 
inn, where we used all to meet for meals. 

What a fine place it was! The regular type 
of the inns of Old France, whose proprietors 
followed one another from father to son in un- 
broken line for centuries, where every visitor was 
treated as one of the family. The cooking was 
famous, delicious trout from a neighbouring 
stream, fat chickens, game, hares, wild-fowl, and 
good dishes carefully cooked and washed down 
with generous Burgundy, whose aroma alone was 
enough to make your head swim. And withal 
extraordinarily cheap, "Board and Lodging 4_ 
_J[ran£a-a^ax." The proprietors weren't so much 
in business to make money as to keep up the 
good name of their house. Before the war that 
wasn't as uncommon in France as one might 
think. It has changed a good deal since, but 
that's on account of the war, as everyone says. 

Imagine how welcome was the restful calm of 
Luxeuil after the hell of Verdun, where nerves 
had been taut to the breaking point and one had 
to fight with every ounce of one's strength not 
to win, but simply to hold on; where against the 



30 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

Boche who had carefully prepared his attack 
we had had to put up a defence on the spur of 
the moment and struggle desperately against ten 
times our number of assailants. 

In our light automobiles we used to go into 
Alsace and visit aerodromes where I had already 
been, some of them located only eight miles be- 
hind the lines, which would be later ports of call 
for us. Between Luxeuil and the line these 
aerodromes of Belfort, Fontaine, and Romagny 
were the only available refuges. In an area of 
more than 35 miles which we crossed through the 
gap of Belfort or across the Vosges, there were 
no other landing fields, so that these needed 
to be thoroughly familiar to our pilots, especially 
as they were rather hard to recognize at first. 

We had a good deal of trouble from Switzer- 
land, which used to make a lot of fuss when our 
planes flew over its territory. Some of the Amer- 
icans who were not very familiar with map- 
reading used to be misled by the fact that there 
is no natural line of demarcation between the 
two countries. So I had to teach them to recog- 
nize the most distinctive features of the land- 
scape. In our trips along the frontier we would 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 31 

pass the time of day with the officer of the Swiss 
guard post at Rechesy, the frontier village, and 
stuff our machine full of cigars whose flavour was 
doubly good because they were contraband. 

In the course of these trips we used to exam- 
ine carefully the dimensions of the various aero- 
dromes we visited as well as the natural obstacles 
around them. The roads over which we passed 
were fringed with cherry trees in blossom and a 
hearty lunch in some Alsatian inn at Danne- 
marie or elsewhere would break our journey. 
The greeting of mine host was as welcome as his 
good cheer, washed down with Alsace's wine and 
a drop of its famous Kirsch at the end. We 
used to come back by the Valley of Thann or by 
Belfort, Giromagny and the Ballon of Alsace. 
My pilots were amazed by the beauty of the 
country, with its torrents roaring in waterfalls 
over the cliffs on the steep pineclad slopes of the 
mountains. These pines of Alsace, symbolic 
trees, how majestically their great trunks tow- 
ered up to Heaven! In voyages like these our 
American comrades learned to understand some 
of the love that we Frenchmen bear our coun- 
try. 



i 

\|/ 32 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

It was a short trip down the Valley of Thann 
and then our car would climb the pass of Bus- 
sang. After the tunnel at its summit we would 
go down the French side in a series of giddy 
zig-zags, and there the valley of the Moselle 
opened before us. Everywhere on our trips we 
used to make note of the few possible places 
for landing in case of accident, some of them 
just square patches of field less than fifty yards 
each way. It was enough to make you shud- 
der to look at them — and all around them great 
trees, hills, ravines and innumerable electric 
power lines, especially in the valley of Thann 
which was filled with busy factories. Let us 
bear in mind these electric power lines for later 
they were to cost the life of one of our comrades. 

Then we would get back home to Luxeuil by 
the fine straight road from Faucogney, after hav- 
ing climbed again the pass of La Fourche. 

It was a pleasant journey through the per- 
fumed air, but we could not help thinking of 
our French comrades in their truceless struggle 
before Verdun. Our forced inactivity worried 
us. I sent telegram after telegram to hurry the 
arrival of the Nieuports, with the result that at 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 33 

last to our immense joy they reached us on the 
first of May. Six baby Nieuports, three with 
110 H.P. Rhone and three with 80 H.P. Rhone. 

Specialist workmen from the Nieuport firm 
hastened to assemble our machines and we set our 
mechanics to work, especially in fixing the ma- 
chine guns. The planes had come bare; we had 
to put on the armament ourselves. Once assem- 
bled we tried them immediately, although few 
of us had ever flown a Nieuport ; everything went 
off all right. 

The^ terrible storm of the 10th of May, 1916, 
will never be forgotten by those who experienced 
it, so sudden and so furious was the wind. On 
the French front all the "sausages" were torn 
from their moorings and despite their parachutes 
a dozen observers were killed by being dragged 
along the soil. 

The canvas hangars, unsheltered from the 
wind, were upset like mere houses of cards. Any 
machines that were out in the field were swept 
away like straws, borne hundreds of yards on 
the tempest, and battered to pieces as they fell. 

It had been a fine afternoon and Kiffin Rock- 
well was trying his machine over the aerodrome. 



34 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

There was a dark line across the horizon towards 
the south-west, but at Luxeuil the sun was shin- 
ing and the air calm. Suddenly this line seemed 
to rush upon him in a few moments at terrific 
speed. It was a cloud of dust raised by the cy- 
clone. The sun was hidden immediately, but 
from the ground we could witness Rockwell's 
struggle with the tempest. His Nieuport was 
thrown up and down like a dead leaf, but the pi- 
lot kept his head. He started descending head 
straight to the wind, with his motor full on and 
joystick right forward. The force of the wind 
was so great that he didn't go forward at all, but 
came down gradually. Our mechanics gauged 
the spot where this new fangled helicopter was 
going to land. They ran to meet it. Rockwell 
landed right in their midst and immediately a 
score of vigorous hands gripped his fragile ma- 
chine by the wheels, the wings, the supports or 
the fuselage — anywhere, so as to prevent it be- 
ing whirled away. Rockwell got out safe and 
sound and his machine was uninjured. It was 
a splendid piece of work. 

In those days there was shortage of machines 
owing to the limited production, and a pilot who 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 35 

broke his plane was likely to remain some time 
without another or be put back on to a slower 
and easier machine like the old Farman. 

To have had a glimpse of the life of a mod- 
ern Knight of the Air and then to go back down 
the scale to become a cabby driving a weary old 
jade, what a dreadful rise and fall ! 

Our mechanics worked madly. I busied my- 
self in getting the last accessories needed, and as 
for our pilots they never left their machines. 
Our leisurely walks at twilight, along the nar- 
row lanes scented with honeysuckle, were a thing 
of the past. From early dawn everyone dashed 
to the aerodrome and helped his mechanic. 

Moreover, if we needed any stimulus we'd 
have got it from the fact that several Boches had 
passed over the ground on scouting expeditions 
at a great height. They had doubtless been 
warned by their espionage service, which bene- 
fited by the proximity of Switzerland, of the 
work which was being done at the Luxeuil aero- 
drome, and had come to verify their information. 
We foresaw that they would not be long in com- 
ing to bomb us, and it maddened us to be un- 
able to rise and attack them. 



36 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

At last all our machines were ready. As we 
had never made patrols together we planned out 
our first trip with great care. Each of us had 
marked his plane with special emblems, so as to 
be clearly visible in the air and be recognized by 
his leaders and fellow-airmen. Big MacConnell 
had adopted a cabalistic sign of a huge foot- 
print painted white. 

The machines were drawn up long before the 
appointed hour. The route had been studied 
out, the formation decided, the point of rendez- 
vous settled beforehand, and our mission fully 
understood. It was to cruise along from a point 
three miles from the Swiss frontier up to Mul- 
house at an altitude of ten thousand feet. Every- 
thing then was ready and we left on a fine morn- 
ing flying in a wild-duck wedge, Rockwell at the 
head. I was last of one file to keep an eye on 
my colts, and on the other side Thaw as a skilled 
pilot to protect that file. We were over Belfort 
twenty minutes later. 

Below us Vauban's old forts seemed to slum- 
ber peacefully. Despite its huge size we couldn't 
distinguish the Lion hewn out by the sculptor 
Bartholdi from the living rock of the fortress 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 37 

to commemorate its heroic resistance in the war 
of 1870. 

Far, far away to westward, far across the 
ocean, at the entry of America's greatest port, 
another statue of the same sculptor held aloft 
its symbolic torch. Which of us would have 
thought that two years later armed men in mil- 
lions would be leaving that great port to come 
to France's aid and that the streets of that little 
old French town would be thronged with khaki 
uniforms side by side with horizon blue ? 

Our motors were soaring away without a miss. 
Soon we had passed the modern fort of Roppe 
and the hangars of Fontaine came into sight. 
Two French "sausages" and two Boches were 
swaying at the end of their frail moorings. Be- 
tween them the trenches, the line. It was our 
first thrill — we were now over enemy soil. 

Our patrol had got a little scattered, but one 
couldn't expect perfection on the first time out. 
One pilot indeed was getting alarmingly far from 
the rest of us ; it was MacConnell who had missed 
his way. Dazzled by the sun, he no longer savTA 
the other planes and was making off danger- j 
ously near Switzerland. Alas poor neutrality! I 



V 



Ni. 



38 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

Another diplomatic incident in perspective. I 
opened up my 110 H.P. and managed to over- 
take MacConnell and bring him back by signs 
into line. 

We had lost sight of the others, but black shell- 
bursts north-east of us showed where they must 
be. We dived towards the black smoke blobs 
and soon after joined the patrol circling round 
a little south-west of Mulhouse just above the 
forest of Nonnenbruch and the anti-aircraft bat- 
teries hidden there. 

The latter were firing for all they were worth. 
"Who are these lunatics who are staying right 
over our heads instead of trying to get into a 
quieter sector?" the Boche artillerymen must have 
thought. 

In fact it needed plenty of nerve to remain in 
the midst of this furnace. Right and left, above, 
below, shellbursts surrounded us and my pilots 
actually seemed to find it amusing. The novices, 
Chapman, MacConnell and Rockwell, deliber- 
ately amused themselves by diving at the little 
smoke clouds. . . . Meanwhile the strident ex- 
plosions of the shells continued. Perhaps what 
nailed them to the spot was the beauty of the 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 39 

scenery. From the air much scenery appears 
monotonous, everything looks flat and uniform, 
but the valley of the Rhine is an exception. In 
the midst of the plain a long silver ribbon, the 
Rhine, and all around the mountain crests en- 
circle the low ground like a great amphitheatre. 
On the east it is the Vosges, to the south-west 
the Jura and the massive Mont Blanc in all 
its dazzling majesty. On the south the Swiss 
Alps, the Oberland and the proud peak of the 
Jungfrau; then, to end the circle, the Swabian 
Jura and the Black Forest. What a wonderful 
picture it was! 

I didn't find it sufficient, however, to keep my 
pilots right above several anti-aircraft batteries. 
What really made them stay w^as the absence of 
Boches. They thought that the German avia- 
tors would have rushed up at the sight of the 
shellbursts that revealed our presence, just as 
they themselves would have done in similar cir- 
cumstances. As a further hint to the enemy 
Rockwell dived right down over the Habsheim 
aerodrome and there performed an aerial fan- 
dango to bring the Boches out. But either they 
refused to be drawn or they were already far 



40 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

away; the guns alone continued their unpleasant 
chorus. 

We followed Rockwell who as leader of the 
patrol we wouldn't have abandoned at any price. 
At last he decided to leave this hell, where evi- 
dently there were no Boche planes to be found, 
as their gunners fired so steadily, and led us off 
southwards to a calmer spot. 

It was a long way home, and we had only just 
enough gas to get back to our ground if we didn't 
want to land "in the cabbages" as we French 
say. In this case the "cabbages" were pine trees 
on the flank of precipitous mountains, and the 
lowest trees in sight were oaks on the jagged foot 
hills. 

We went back straight by the Valley of Masse- 
vaux. Below us glittered the Lake of Sewen, 
which had been formed by a dam inaugurated 
some years before with great ceremony by the 
Kaiser. On that day the old Alsatian town of 
Massevaux had shuttered its windows like a city 
of the dead. It had died indeed in '71 with the 
Treaty of Frankfort, but the entry of our troops 
had brought it back to life again. Then came 
the Ballon of Alsace and its bald summit, the 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 41 

Ballon of Servance with its fort, and thence 
twenty-five miles away we perceived the hangars 
of Luxeuil. 

Good workmanlike landing. Altogether a 
promising first expedition, — only next time we 
hoped for some Boches. 

Our mechanics were eagerly awaiting us. Di- 
rectly we landed they ran up and helped us to 
get back to our hangars. Minor imperfections 
in our machines were pointed out to them and 
after having filled up with gas they started work- 
ing on them, as well as on the machine-guns 
whose trials had been rather unsatisfactory. I 
have said that we hadJLewis guns,-mounted on 
the upper plane. The trigger was actuated by 
a Bowden wire and to put a new drum in— for 
the 27 cartridges were soon shot away — you had^ 
to swing the weapon down by pulling a lever (see 
photo) and the wind brought it sharply back- 
wards at the risk of cracking your skull if you 
didn't keep your head well down. It was far 
from an easy job to substitute a full drum for 
an empty one with your fingers frozen and 
hampered by thick gloves, and one needed quite 
a lot of practice to do it properly, especially as 



i 



42 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

one had to use one hand for piloting the ship for 
fear of getting into a spin. 

Only a practised pilot could repair a machine- 
gun jam in the air, so that in a fight there was 
always the danger of being disarmed against an 
adversary who could fire five hundred cartridges 
at a clip. We had not had time to get all the 
practice needed for this sort of work, but the ex- 
perience of our first trip showed that it was 
necessary, so I prevented ray pilots from going 
out immediately back to the lines and set them 
all to this job. They continued their machine 
gun training that afternoon over the aerodrome 
and found themselves fortunate when the wind 
didn't carry away the drum before it had been 
fixed in place. In that case it was good-bye to 
the drum, and one could only hope it didn't land 
on the head of anyone down below. In actual 
fighting this mishap would have been serious, for 
your adversary with his superior weapon had a 
good chance of bringing you down while you were 
busy trying to fix up your own. 

So we had good reason to work hard at this 
task and gradually we got satisfactory results 
with the help of a whole series of little improve- 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 43 

ments due to the ingenuity of our mechanics. 

Always on leaving the aerodrome we hurried 
famished to the hotel and there was no lack of 
conversation at meals. In th^e morning we talked 
French, English at night. It was forbidden to 
make a mistake of a single word under pain of 
ten cents to the pool. The result was that some 
hard-headed citizens endeavoured to maintain un- 
broken silence but they couldn't stand the kidding 
of their friends which would go on until they 
simply had to answer; then they'd burst out into 
a weird Franco- American jargon that would have 
made the fortune of a clown in the circus. 

But our pleasant repose began to be singularly 
troubled. The Boche, who had been growing 
more and more uneasy over the development of 
Luxeuil, came one night on a bombarding expe- 
dition, and four of our devoted mechanics were 
blown to bits. The German machine had flow-n 
very high, then cut out its engine, and planed 
down unheard to plant its bombs with certainty 
on our slumbering crew. 

Against attacks like these we were powerless; 
night fighting is a myth regarding which the 
civilian population has been hoodwinked too 



I 



44 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

long. Against night raiders there is nothing 
really of avail save an extraordinarily well- 
organized artillery defence from the ground. It 
was only towards the end of the war that one be- 
gan to have perfected systems of guns firing at 
an invisible objective according to data furnished 
by range finding from sound. Results were lim- 
ited enough even then, but before this discovery 
of calculating an aeroplane's position by the 
sound of its motors there was nothing but a few 
searchlights, whose value was entirely illusory 
and which often served rather to enable the bomb- 
ing plane to locate its objectives. 

Nevertheless, as it was light very early and 
the German machines used to come over but a 
short time before dawn we used to bring out 
our planes in the night to start as best we could 
in the darkness directly we heard the ominous 
buzz of their motor, so as to go and await them 
over the Vosges at daybreak on their way back. 
It was pretty dangerous, for motor trouble by 
night over this mountainous and thickly wooded 
country with our swift machines would have 
meant certain death. 

At this sort of game Thaw was desperate and 




Escadrille 42 leaves Luneville to bomb the station of IMetz. 




Lt. Thaw leaves the ground. 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 45 

persevering, but he never had the luck to bring 
down an enemy, although sometimes he managed 
to get in touch with them. Perhaps, like the rest 
of us, he wasn't sufficiently expert in the awk- 
ward work of firing from a single-seater, whose 
full difficulty we none of us yet realized. 

Rockwell was the first to have the good for- 
tune to bring down a Boche plane. 

He was cruising one fine morning — it was the 
18th of May — between Mulhouse and the Hart- 
mannsweilerkopf, when he perceived a big Ger- 
man biplane with its black crosses trying to cross 
over our line. It was an L.V.G. He dived and 
fired a burst of five or six cartridges at it which 
brought it down in the enemy's lines. You may 
imagine how we feted our Escadrille's first vic- 
tory. Rockwell's brother sent us from Paris a 
bottle of whiskey eighty years old, a real treat 
for a connoisseur. We at once decided that only 
pilots who brought down Boches could drink a 
glass for each victory. A certain Lufbery was 
destined to drink half the bottle all by himself. 

The following day. May 19th, we received or- 
ders to make for the region of Verdun, where 
the struggle was still very fierce, and to locate 



46 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

ourselves at Behonne near Bar-le-Duc. We were 
delighted, for there were lots of Boche planes 
at Verdun and we were certain of good sport. 
Our pilots were now getting into form and we 
looked forward confidently to the future. We 
hoped to avenge the great French fliers of that 
epoch, who had just been put out of action, Na- 
varre and Chaput, who had been wounded, and 
Boillot, the famous racing automobile champion 
before the war, who had been killed. 

In the night of the 19th to the 20th all our 
automobile tractors were drawn up at the edge 
of the field, loaded and ready to start, when an 
enemy bombing plane by a lucky shot — lucky 
for him but the reverse for us — dropped an ex- 
plosive charge right in the middle of them. The 
gasoline in the tanks caught fire and four of our 
wagons were completely destroyed. The others 
were only saved by the devotion of some mechan- 
ics, who started them off despite the machine gun 
fire of the Boche, who came down and scattered 
bullets over the blaze. However, nobody was 
wounded. 




Trenches in Alsace; Oberer, Ochsene. Eldhop. 
It will be noticed that the trenches are intact as the sector was quiet. 




Trenches at Les Eparges. Notice the great mine craters. 



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I 



CHAPTER III 

Verdun — A Great Battle at its height — Chapman — The 
Escadrille distinguishes itself 

At Luxeuil we had had a narrow escape at the 
last minute. Now "Verdun! Verdun!" was the 
general cry and at dawn I gave the signal for 
departure. Captain Happe lent us extra camions 
for our mechanics to replace those we had lost. 
For us pilots it was only too easy to travel as the 
crow flies; I gave orders to follow the lines and 
land at Luneville to fill up with gas. What a 
delightful trip it was over the blue Vosges, with 
here and there mist, making a light veil at the 
bottom of the valleys. The lakes of Gerardmer 
and Longemer glittered in the sunlight like splen- 
did emeralds. 

At Luneville the aerodrome is small and al- 
most enclosed in the town. From up above you 
wonder how you are going to land on this tiny 
pocket handkerchief. However our landing was 
accomplished all right. The Escadrille at I<une- 

47 



48 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

ville N** 48 kept us for lunch. During the meal 
two Boches came over the town. Thaw and 
Chapman dashed off to the ground and chased 
them swiftly home again. Chapman gave me a 
moment of great anxiety in diving so sharply after 
them into the enemy's lines that we thought he 
had been brought down. In the afternoon we 
went on towards Bar-le-Duc. At Nancy, Hall 
left the patrol to make a little tour in the direction 
of Metz. It wasn't the time for a thing like that. 
However, he soon found that he was getting lost 
and decided to follow us again. At Behonne, 
whose aerodrome, situated on a plateau, sur- 
rounded by deep ravines immediately north of 
Bar-le-Duc, is dreaded for its difficulties, our 
landing was accomplished without accident. 

With his usual kindness. Major Fabiani, who 
I am sorry to say died shortly afterwards, placed 
at our disposal a comfortable villa right at the 
gates of the town, which had been abandoned by 
its owner. It soon became the rendezvous at 
lunch hour for all the French pilots passing 
through Bar-le-Duc. We kept open table and 
in a very short time had firmly established our 
reputation for hospitality. 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 49 

Those of us who had not yet got machines 
received them immediately and those who were 
ready had no time to waste, for there was plenty 
of work to do. Our French comrades were over- 
whelmed by it. They had nevertheless begun 
to get the upper hand over the enemy aviation, 
but at the price of many sacrifices. Their task 
was a heavy one and it was up to us to help them. 
You can imagine that our boys wanted nothing 
better. The word "Verdun" had keyed them to 
the highest pitch. On the 22nd we began to 
work. There was a big counter-attack that day 
by the French, and the aviation had an impor- 
tant role to play in the thunderous concert. We 
were instructed to patrol at the height of a thou- 
sand feet in the region of Douaumont, where 
the artillery battle was chiefly concentrated. 

On days of battle there were three stages for 
patrols (later there were as many as six) ; the 
low patrol at a thousand feet, middle at six thou- 
sand, and high at twelve thousand, all of them 
working over the battle zone. If you were twelve 
thousand feet up there might be heavy air-fight- 
ing going on near the ground without your know- 
ing anything about it, and vice-versa. In the 



so THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRlLLE 

latter case it was quite impossible for you to take 
part even if you wanted to, because it took too 
long to get up to the required altitude. During 
our flight we could hear the roar of the very large 
shells and sometimes even see them in the form 
of a passing flash. In our pilot's slang we 
called them the big black rats, and there was no 
small danger of being involved in their trajectory. 
Sometimes an aeroplane literally burst into frag- 
ments, which meant that a big shell had hit it in 
full career. 

In war, life, or rather death, is only a ques- 
tion of meeting on your own route with the 
trajectories of any kind of projectile. To es- 
cape, the only thing to do is not to be at the 
meeting point at the same moment. 

It was really surprising that this accident didn't 
happen more often, especially in the case of the 
low patrols, which were the least sought after on 
account of this ever present risk. 

The 25th at dawn Thaw, on a patrol with 
Rockwell, was lucky enough to bring down a 
Fokker. "No credit to me," he told us, "I just 
murdered him. He never saw me." 

Immediately after their return we made a grand 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 51 

scouting expedition over the lines along the whole 
sector. The Escadrille in full force was to take 
the opportunity of sweeping the sky good and 
clear. What a trip that was! I'll remember 
it all my life. Thaw and Rockwell had only 
just time to fill up their tanks when I gave my 
orders, which were that we should only attack 
if I gave the signal by see-sawing my plane. We 
were to follow the lines; I knew the Boche, knew 
that he had all his great aces, Boelke and the 
rest of them, in the neighbourhood, and I wanted 
to train my escadrille before trying to stack up 
against them. So, I was anxious not to lose the 
fight almost before it began by attempting to 
go too fast. As a matter of fact it was the lack 
of this sort of gradual training for battle prac- 
tised on the battle-field itself, which later caused 
the pilots of the American Expeditionary Force 
to incur such cruel losses. But to go back to our 
trip. 

We went off in the direction of Saint Mihiel. 
The patrol formed up correctly over Les Eparges, 
with its immense mine craters as big as volcanoes, 
and we flew over the lines always followed by 
the shells of anti-aircraft guns, which were so 



52 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

numerous in this sector that even later we never 
saw them thicker anywhere else. 

We turned northwards and immediately a 
strange sight met our eyes: a strip of ground 
several miles wide without a tree, without grass, 
brown and yellow in color, where the soil was 
pitted with shell-holes innumerable that touched 
each other, without roads, without houses, noth- 
ing — nothing, as if the very bowels of the earth 
had been torn open. It was the battlefield of 
Verdun. Fort Douaumont could still just be dis- 
tinguished. Suddenly, in the distance east- 
wards, towards Etain, I perceived a dozen Boche 
two-seaters, flying low over their own lines, so 
low that they seemed like sheep grazing on the 
green meadows far from the cannon-ravaged zone. 

They were too low, too numerous, and too far 
behind their own lines for us to attack on this 
first expedition, especially with pilots who had 
yet to get thoroughly acquainted with a redoubt- 
able enemy. For when one goes down low over 
enemy territory one has always to remember the 
danger which may come from above, against 
which one is powerless. 

Suddenly a pilot, I don't know who it was, 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 53 

whether de Laage or another, we were never able 
to find out, dived like a meteor straight towards 
the Boches. Without the least hesitation every- 
one followed, joysticks right forward at full speed. 
Everyone picked out his opponent, but the Boches 
were so startled to see this pack of devils falling 
upon them that they turned tail and ran for all 
they were worth. Then our machine guns came 
into play and the Boches replied. 

Everyone of us was so busy that he lost sight 
of his comrades and watched only the enemy, 
who tried to meet us from in front and on the 
flank and above all were anxious not to let us 
catch them in the rear during their flight. They 
dived for home and we followed them. At least 
three enemy were seriously hit and landed one 
after the other. I saw two of our machines turn 
back towards our lines, also hit as we learned 
afterwards. 

The Boches were much too low for us. We 
could see the soldiers firing at us in the street 
of Etain; it was time to make back for our lines. 
The retreat was carried out in good order; the 
Boche had been attacked too savagely to think 
of pursuing us, and by good fortune there were 



54 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

none of them up above. Nothing worse than the 
disagreeable boom of their guns followed us 
homewards. At last we saw the lines in the dis- 
tance; then passed the enemy's ''sausages," be- 
yond them our own lines, and so back again into 
calm. 

I was anxious to get back to our ground at 
Bar-le-Duc to reassemble my pilots. Were there 
any missing ? I couldn't tell. We were too scat- 
tered. The journey back, despite my Nieuport's 
speed, seemed very long to me. 

I landed. A big fellow, his face all covered 
with blood, was waiting for me. It was Kiffin 
Rockwell, who burst into a flood of abuse against 
Germany and her disloyal methods. In fact an 
explosive bullet had burst on his windshield and 
cut his upper lip. A slight wound, which only 
lent fuel to his ardour. 

Everyone was now home save Thaw. Our un- 
easiness was growing, yet no one had seen a 
French machine come down as if it was out of 
control, but in the midst of such a melee one can 
never tell what is going on a few yards away. 

In a fight like that two machines cross each 
other at hundred miles an hour, firing furiously. 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 55 

and sometimes the fight is all over in the fraction 
of a second. If you just glance away for a mo- 
ment the whole action may have happened with- 
out your noticing it. 

We went to lunch in the town having arranged 
that any news which might come should be tele- 
phoned to us. 

Everyone had an incident of the fighting to 
relate, and we hoped that Thaw had managed 
to land in our lines. Sure enough. The tele- 
phone rang, I rushed to it, and after having 
shouted "Hello" a dozen times, for there were 
a number of intermediate posts, through which 
communication had to pass, I learned that Thaw 
had had an arm broken by a bullet, but that he 
had managed to land nearly dead-beat on a 
ground near the lines close to the fort of Ta- 
vannes right on top of the Cotes de Meuse. He 
had been picked up by one of our Regiments 
and taken to the hospital of Dieue. 

That was almost good news, since he wasn't 
killed, and at Verdun that was the most one could 
hope for. That afternoon I went to see him. 
The roads were choked, for the Germans were 
firing on the Meuse bridges. Shells were burst- 



y 



56 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

ing in the water, raising splendid fountains. 
Fish floated belly upwards on the surface and 
our poilus, careless of the shell fire, picked them 
out with nets, delighted with the addition to their 
mess. We found Thaw comfortably fixed up and 
well looked after. They were going to put his 
arm in plaster and send him off two days later 
to the American hospital at Neuilly on the out- 
skirts of Paris. He told us that while he was 
engaged in a combat he received from the Ger- 
man machine-gunner a ball which had fractured 
his left elbow. Despite the agony of the wound 
and the loss of blood he was able to keep control 
of his plane. 

He had only one thought — to get back west- 
wards. Quite exhausted, he landed in the barbed 
wire without knowing where he was. Then he 
saw blue uniforms. He was saved. 

On the 24th of May there came to the esca- 
drille a pilot whom I was too busy to take much 
notice of the first day, but who rapidly attracted 
everyone's attention. Simple, modest, silent and 
hardworking, always getting his plane ready him- 
self — it was Lufbery. 

Several other new pilots came to join us. First 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 57 

of all young Balsley, who had all the shyness and 
gentleness of a girl, but whose soul was that of a 
man, as he soon showed. Then came Chouteau- 
Johnson, Rumsey and Dudley Hill ; the latter was 
destined to stay with the escadrille to the end, com- 
rade of good and evil days alike. There came 
too Didier-Masson, an old pilot, who had already 
made his debut in aerial warfare with Carranza's 
army in its rebellion against Huerta. He then 
flew an old-fashioned Bleriot. 

The 17th of June — I remember it as if it was 
yesterday — we were patrolling on the right bank 
of the Meuse and were supposed to remain there, 
but Chapman saw that all the Boches were on the 
left bank and, like a tiger, dashed at a group of 
them. What a lot of enemy planes there were on 
the left bank, a regular swarm. With Balsley 
and de Laage we followed and freed him from 
the attack of a big camouflaged plane, a heavily 
armed three-seater, which despite its bitter resist- 
ance, was forced to dive for safety to Forges wood. 
We turned homewards satisfied, but Chapman 
didn't come right back to the Behonne aerodrome. 
After having filled up with gas at Vadelaincourt 
he went off alone again. He met a Boche ace. 



58 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

who handled his machine infernally well, as 
Chapman told us afterwards, accompanied by 
four others. Chapman stood up to him all right, 
but his plane was riddled with bullets, one of 
which slightly wounded him in the head (see 
photo) and he was forced to land at Froidos, the 
field of Escadrille 67, with a machine that was 
no longer air- worthy; several struts had been al- 
most completely cut through. He had been fight- 
ing with Boelke, the famous German pilot, a 
clever oldstager, who, by the way, told the story 
of the fight in one of his letters. So keen was 
Chapman that my friend. Captain de Saint-Sau- 
veur, commanding the 67th, had to give him posi- 
tive orders not to attempt another flight with his 
injured "cuckoo." He wanted to go and have 
another shot at them and despite his wounds ut- 
terly declined to rest. He was so disappointed 
at being forced to part with his machine while it 
was being repaired that I had to give him another 
immediately. 

On the 19th of June Balsley, while engaged 
with a Fokker north of Verdun, was surprised by 
another machine. Close by, I myself was busy 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 59 

with two others. Balsley received an explosive 
bullet in the thigh which caused appalling in- 
juries, literally splitting the pelvis bone. His 
machine got into a spin. . . . 

By sheer will-power — God knows how he man- 
aged it with such a wound — Balsley managed to 
recover control and land near Fort of Choiseul 
quite close to the first line, where our brave in- 
fantrymen, heedless of shellj&re, picked him up 
and carried him to the shelter of a comfortless 
First Aid Post, established at the bottom of a 
squalid cellar. All the surgeon could do for him 
was to apply a temporary bandage. 

Fortunately an automobile was in the neigh- 
bourhood, which had come for an officer who, 
while acting as observer in a "sausage," had been 
forced to jump out with his parachute. A Ger- 
man battery had cut the "Sausage's" cable and 
as the wind was blowing towards the enemy lines, 
the officer had chosen to leap for it rather than 
be taken prisoner. It was a lucky accident for 
Balsley, for he had received intestinal injuries 
which required an immediate operation. The au- 
tomobile took him swiftly back to the hospital 



60 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

of Vadelaincourt, where he was admirably cared 
for by an Infirmiere Major of the French Red 
Cross, Madame Dorville. The surgeon lyho 
operated didn't try to hide from us the gravity 
of the case. Balsley had to lie on his back for 
more than a year, but the care that he received 
snatched him from death; he gradually began to 
get better and our hopes revived. 

On the 23rd of June Balsley sent us a tele- 
phone message that he would like some oranges, 
orange juice being the only nourishment allowed 
him, as his intestine was perforated in several 
places by splinters of the explosive bullet. 

Immediately that good fellow Chapman of- 
fered to carry him some on his Nieuport. On 
the way, Chapman couldn't resist the temptation 
of attacking the foe who had brought Balsley 
down. Far off northwards numerous shell- 
bursts with white smoke, which proved they were 
French, for the German's were black, showed there 
was "game" in the air. He met a troop of five 
Fokkers, perhaps Boelke again, but joined battle 
without hesitating, only to be brought down in 
the enemy lines at Haumont near Samogneux. 




Lt. Fr(|uaiit. Thrnault. 'I'haw. Lufhery. 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 61 

In its fall his machine broke in the air. An ob- 
server on a Farman told us the story of the fight 
and with what gallant courage our comrade had 
battled. Glory to Chapman, that true hero! 
Men like him are the pride of a Nation, their 
names should ever be spoken with respect. 

The American Escadrille was now beginning 
to attract attention and General Headquarters 
sent us a hail of decorations. 

On July 4th, Independence Day, there was a 
big fete in Paris, and with some of my pilots I 
went to represent the Escadrille at the ceremony 
at Lafayette's tomb in Picpus cemetery. There 
the American Ambassador, the Honourable Mr. 
Sharp, made a speech whose form might appear 
diplomatic, but in every phrase of which was 
clearly revealed the affection of his country for 
our own. 

At^this time Nungesser came to stay with us 
for a few days and went to work with his usual 
dash, flying his Nieuport with its famous but 
ghoulish insignia the Death's Head and Cross / 
Bones, and brought down an enemy plane. 

My second in command. Lieutenant de Laage 



62 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

de Meux, brought down a German on the 27th 
of July between Ornes and Bezonvaux. He was 
one of the most determined pilots in the Esca- 
drille and yet he was a long time in getting his 
first victory, owing to a run of bad luck. 

On the 31st of July we were having lunch 
when a telephone message informed us that Luf- 
bery had brought down a Boche. He too had 
well earned success by his perseverance. 

Once he had begun, he went on in the same 
vein bringing down two more near Fort Vaux 
and a fourth on the 8th of August near Douau- 
mont in the Ravine of the Viper. 

That was the tenth Boche brought down by 
the Escadrille. On the 16th of August Lufbery 
received the Military Medal and the War Cross 
with one palm. He was scoring successes faster 
than they could recompense him. 

As I have already said the Germans had got 
together a strong force of aviation for this bat- 
tle of Verdun. They profited by it to fly over 
and bombard Bar-le-Duc during July and Au- 
gust, causing serious damage each time. 

The town was so near the St. Mihiel Gap, only 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 63 

fifteen miles away, that the whole business was 
over and done with before we could rise to fight 
them. Moreover, they used generally to come 
while we were on patrol over the lines north of 
Verdun. 

They came in groups of twenty or thirty and 
did a great deal of harm to the town. Once we 
had to rise and fight them while a hail of bombs 
were falling round us on the field with their hor- 
rible whistling as they fell — Ugh! . . . It's a 
most unpleasant position to be sitting out in the 
middle of an aerodrome in a machine whose mo- 
tor is slow in starting while bombs are falling all 
around you. The mechanic twists away at the 
propellor in vain and when at last the motor does 
decide to fire it's a tremendous relief, for you 
know that at last you will be able to meet the 
enemy on fair terms. Until you start you keep 
thinking that each bomb, whose ominous whistle 
you hear, is coming for you and you are only re- 
assured when once the explosion has passed. 
That is real torture, for our 110 H.P. machines 
were not very easy to start. In the course of one 
of our flights to drive away these raiders, Prince 



64 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

and I were brought down one day, both of us 
having had our tank pierced with bullets. Luck- 
ily they were not incendiary. 

In the first fortnight of September Hall, Prince 
and Rockwell each brought down an enemy plane. 
By this time the enemy was much less numerous 
and above all showed much less dash. The main 
body of his air forces had moved over to the 
Somme, where the Allied offensive was in full 
swing. 

So ended for us the Battle of Verdun, which 
went down in the Escadrille's record, as the hard- 
est struggle we had to face. The weather was 
constantly fine and the flying material but spar- 
ingly distributed, so that we had to use every 
machine until it was quite worn out. Every one 
had to fight with all his soul to hold his own 
against a tenacious foe. 

In this task the Americans proved themselves 
the equals of the French soldiers of Caures Wood, 
of Pepper Hill, of Douaumont, of Dead Man's 
Hill, and of Hill 304. One can say no more. 

Our Escadrille had become known throughout 
the world, but no one ever knew all that it did, 
for many of the planes we brought down we could 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 65 

not add to our record owing to lack of the neces- 
sary confirmation. We had had 146 combats, 13 
enemy planes, confirmed as having been brought 
down, one pilot killed and three wounded. It 
was a fine record. 

The authorities never spared the American Es- 
cadrille more than one of its own units, indeed 
the idea of such a thing would have humiliated 
us. The Escadrille's baptism of fire at Verdun 
was an undying memory for all the pilots who 
took part in it, and later the survivors were wont 
to recall this terrible period when they had hardly 
time to sleep or eat, when they used to sleep fully 
dressed in their flying suits beneath their planes 
so as to be ready to start at the first glimpse of 
dawn. 

Those were the heroic days of the Escadrille, 
its glorious prime. Prince, Lufbery, Rockwell 
and Chapman, were you not worthy rivals of the 
greatest Heroes of any age or country? 



V 



CHAPTER IV 

PARIS 

Life on Leave — Return to Luxeuil — Kiffin Rockwell — 
Norman Prince 



On the 12th of September, 1916, the Ameri- 
can Escadrille, which expected to use for winter 
quarters the comfortable Fougerolle Villa at Bar- 
le-Duc (Fougerolle was the owner's name), sud- 
denly received orders to return to Luxeuil with- 
out machines. What did that mean? Every- 
thing was calm down there — it must be that Cap- 
tain Happe had some plan in store and required 
our protection for his bombers. My pilots and 
I didn't worry much about the object of our fu- 
ture activity. We knew that there were no ma- 
chines yet at Luxeuil, so the pilots asked me to 
pass by Paris on our way back there. 

Lufbery was on leave when I received from 
him the following telegram: "Am held in prison 
at Chartres." I telephoned to the Officer in com- 

66 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 67 

mand at Chartres and learned that Lufbery had 
broken six teeth of a railroad employee who had 
been rude to him and knocked him out with the 
same blow. Lufbery was a pretty sudden propo- 
sition when he was roused and moreover, in this 
case, there was every excuse for him, for the 
employee had been the first to lay hands on him, 
which Lufbery regarded as an insult to his Mili- 
tary Medal. I insisted on the importance of our 
mission to the Commanding Officer and managed 
to get my bird out of his cage. You can imagine 
how the others kidded him when he got back, 
greeting him as "the jail bird." 

In France the quickest way from one point to 
another always leads through Paris. As there 
wasn't the least objection, I was glad to give the 
pilots and myself the pleasure of a visit to the 
capital. What an attraction Paris has exercised 
over all the fighting men during this war ! 

Who hasn't been to Paris? Who hasn't gone 
through it during these days of stress? All the 
peoples of the world have trodden its asphalt, 
and the mixture of uniforms that mingled on its 
Boulevards were a sight that will be unique for 
ever. It is well known that veteran soldiers have 



68 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

a curious fatalism of their own and once danger 
is over they think of it no longer. Did we even 
think of it while we were in the midst of it? 
Yes. Yes, when we saw a dear friend disappear 
or when the Wings of Death brushed nearer us 
than usual. But not for long; Life is stronger 
than Death. Man is the only being who knows 
how to laugh and his natural gaiety springs ever 
to the surface. Is not the sun stronger than the 
clouds which sometimes hide his face? 

There can be nothing more restful for men 
who have been living for months at the war, not 
even daring to think that each day may be their 
last, than to get back to contact with the civiliza- 
tion of a great city. 

Think how different was Paris from the spec- 
tacle we were accustomed to see. No more butch- 
ery, no horrors, but among the yellowing chest- 
nut trees of the Tuileries, the Autumn sun gild- 
ing the marbles, while in the Avenue spanned by 
the Arc-de-Triomphe, carriage after carriage sped 
swiftly by. 

So, to visit Paris was considered a great fa- 
vour, as regular leave every four months or more 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 69 

seemed very long in coming. Moreover, men on 
regular leave were alone. Doubtless they had 
friends and acquaintances ready to take them 
about and help them, but they felt lost without 
their regular comrades. The most devoted of 
these friends of ours were unquestionably Mr. 
Slade and his wife. Thaw's charming sister. 
Everybody had recourse to them when it was a 
question of breaking the news to a family who 
had lost someone, or to reassure anxious hearts 
far away across the Atlantic. For all that, and 
especially for all the other things they did for 
my Escadrille, which I can't repeat for fear of 
hurting their modesty, I wish to thank them. 

We thought it a piece of wonderful luck to be 
all together in Paris. Despite the social differ- 
ence between many members of the Escadrille, 
there was a perfect understanding amongst them 
on all subjects. "Esprit-de-Corps" smoothed 
over any former differences that might have ex- 
isted before, and rich or poor, educated or igno- 
rant, professional men or manual labourers, they 
all got on splendidly together. 

Were they not all animated by the same spirit? 



I 



70 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

There were practically never any disputes, and 
it was very rare that I had to interfere as arbi- 
trator. My own task was easy: I had simply 
to treat everyone fairly without prejudice or fa- 
vour. 

This good fellowship was maintained in Paris 
as at the front. Just as the toils and hard work 
of the front had been endured together, so the 
joys of Paris were shared in the best spirit of 
comradeship. 

Generally, after a lazy morning, we would go 
to the Club before lunch to hear the news and 
meet the other French pilots on leave. When I 
say "Club" I mean the Hotel Chatham, where 
we would taste at the same time excellent Mar- 
tinis, prepared by the expert hand of Santq.> 

As a regular thing, the American newspaper 
correspondents, who had come to consider them- 
selves Inbre or less as special war correspondents 
of the American Escadrille, would ply our pilots 
with questions, but the latter, well as they did 
their work, didn't care very much about speaking 
of it. 

Sometimes, however, one of them, whose gaiety 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 71 

had been stimulated by a well mixed Manhattan, 
would unblinkingly set going the most appalling 
"canards," which duly winged their way across 
the Atlantic. Thus, thanks to one of his pals. 
Thaw one day saw himself hailed as a hero by 
the newspapers of his native Pittsburg, for hav- 
ing landed in the enemy's lines and waged single- 
handed combat with a battery of Boche artillery, 
which he had reduced to silence with his machine 
gun 1 ! That was going it a bit strong. 

However, all their stories were not jokes like 
this, and the best pilots, in the judgment of their 
peers, were quickly marked out for their renown 
to travel across the Atlantic. 

Interesting fights, the brave deeds of those who 
had disappeared, the work that had been done, 
all this was related. Public opinion on the other 
side of the ocean wanted its own communique 
every day, a national communique, and it was 
the American Escadrille which supplied it. 

Even the pro-German newspapers took note 
of us, and this publicity we received throughout 
the press was perhaps the best propaganda, for 
it showed to which side was attracted an elite. 



I 



72 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

animated solely by a noble purpose and a glorious 
ideal. There was never an American Escadrille 
in Germany. 

But to return to Paris, and a good place too, 
as my Americans would say. . . . 

The morning never ended without our good 
friend Mr. W. Moore Robinson gathering every- 
body, reporters and pilots, around his table, the 
famous round table — were we not its modern 
Knights? He used to offer us a last drink and 
would generally hand over to our mess secretary 
a coupon fo r fifty j)ounds_ojLco gee. 

Never did Mr. Robinson allow the Escadrille 
to want for coffee. We thank him for his kind- 
ness. Afterwards we'd go off to lunch in little 
groups and if anyone found himself too short of 
money, the millionaires of the crowd, as we jok- 
ingly called them, would be delighted to take him 
along and stand him a lunch at the R jtz. It was 
real good fellowship. 

/ In the afternoon, the pilots interested in me- 
chanics would go to the factories to have a look 
at their future machines, and would give their 
opinion as real connoisseurs, which was always 
Welcomed, especially regarding the shortcomings 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 73 

of aeroplanes already in use. The engineers 
used to ask us what were our requirements. 
Later this was forbidden by the authorities, but 
it was thanks to this incessant collaboration, much 
more than to that of the offices, that constructors 
were able to make great improvements in their 
aeroplanes during the first years of the war. 

But the best of good times must come to an 
end, and when the hour came to leave Paris we 
were all just as glad to go as we had been to 
arrive. Naturally our purses, which for every 
good American seemed to be simply his right 
hand pocket, were quite empty. We had once 
more to go after the Boche, everyone was ready 
without the least regret, and there was no falling 
off in the general high spirits. 

It was on this trip that one morning Thaw 
read in the "Herald" that a Brazilian dentist 
wanted to sell a lion cub, bought on a visit to 
Africa. A syndicate was immediately formed to 
buy it with a capital of 500 francs. Its mem- 
bers were Prince, Thaw, Rockwell and Hall. 
The animal was to be the Escadrille's mascot. 
He was baptized "Whiskey." When Thaw ap- 
peared at the Gare de I'Est, with his animal on a 



i 



74 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

leash, he took a dog's ticket and got into a car- 
riage without any difficulty at first, but a con- 
troller came along. "What is that animal?" 
"An African dog," replied Thaw. But at that 
moment young Whiskey gave a loud roar and 
showed his claws. Some women jumped out 
of the carriage in terror, and the employee, en- 
lightened as to Whiskey's true race, summoned 
the station master who forbade our friend to take 
the train. Thaw had to let the train leave with- 
out him and go and have a strong cage made for 
his "dog" and put it in the luggage car the next 
day. A lion in a luggage car — what a terrible 
come down from the Virgin Forest and the wilds 
of the bush! Finally, Thaw got the creature 
safely to Luxeuil, where it was received with open 
arms. 

At the Pomme d'Or Hotel, Whiskey won the 
hearts of the two charming daughters of the pro- 
prietor, who put a pink ribbon round his neck 
and took great pains to find out what he liked 
best to eat. After several experiments, it was 
discovered to be bread and milk mixed. At first 
he used to show his claws on every occasion, but, 
after having received several good hidings, he 



i 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 75 

learned to keep them covered, and soon became 
the best behaved of lions. He used to follow us 
like a dog, and would even accompany us for 
miles across country. 

My dog, the famous Fram, the Escadrille's pet, 
a splendid and well trained police dog, adopted 
Whiskey as a pal, and it was wonderful to see 
them play together. They were such good 
friends that fifteen months later, when the lion 
was full grown, and could have easily eaten the 
dog up, they still played just as nicely, the only 
condition being that Whiskey wasn't interrupted 

with his meals. 

To pass the time, while waiting for our ma 
chines, we used to fish for trout in the neighbour- 
ing streams or have parties with our friends from 
the Royal Navy. I remember one Homeric foot- 
ball match between British and Americans, 
played about midnight, with all lights out, in a 
shed belonging to the Englishmen. The walls 
yielded to our shoulders, and the players went 
head over heels outside. The reader can guess 
for himself the state of the furniture in the shed, 
and personally I was just as glad that the game 
had not been played in our own. 




76 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

There were other less noisy amusements. At 
Luxeuil we organized dances in a big hotel and 
often used to dance one-steps and bostons, or 
teach our inexperienced partners the compli- 
cated steps of the tango or fox-trot. Finally, on 
the 19th of September, after a week's waiting, 
six machines reached us from the Bar-le-Duc re^^ 
serve sup ply. 

We set to work getting them ready, and the 
job was accomplished all the more quickly be- 
cause they were Nieuport fifteen square meters, 
110 H. P., fitted with Vickers Machine Guns, 
firing athwart the propellor with synchronization, 
and by this time our mechanics had more experi- 
ence. Captain Happe didn't want to see us fly 
before the great mission for which we had come 
and whose date and object were still a mystery. 

But think of restraining fanatics like Lufbery 
or Rockwell, when they had at their disposal 
superb new machines, fitted with the latest de- 
vices. On the 22nd, their machines were the 
first to be ready, and they were already flying 
over Mulhouse. On the 23d Lufbery and Rock- 
well were flying over Hartmannsweilerkopf just 
at the spot where the latter had won his first vie- 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 77 

tory. Up came a patrol of three Fokkers, who 
manoeuvred very skilfully. 

I ought to say that on this Alsace front up to 
1917, the Boche, rightly fearing bombardments 
on factories, etc., behind their lines, had always 
maintained a force of fighting planes superior to 
our own, because for us it was a calm sector. 
The enemy always had excellent pilots there with 
the best and latest machines. It was the easiest 
place to attack them on their own ground, and 
their population had a far greater fear of aerial 
bombardments than our own. Whereas in our 
case our fighting planes were always sent to the 
spot where an offensive was in progress. 

Lufbery and Rockwell each attacked an ad- 
versary, but unfortunately Lufbery's machine- 
gun jammed right at the beginning. The first 
trials of the Vickers machine-gun, as indeed of 
all of them, were very unsatisfactory for us, con- 
stantly jamming, due especially to the drums and 
the freezing of oil owing to the high altitude at 
which we flew. Only gradual improvements of 
detail could set that right. 

Lufbery had to beat a retreat and despite 
clever manoeuvres received three bullets in his 



78 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

plane, one of which broke part of the framework 
of a wing. 

He landed on the field of Fontaine, belonging 
to Escadrille 49. Rockwell followed him back 
to our lines, but didn't want to land and went 
back again to go on with his foray alone. It 
was dangerous, but that was Rockwell all over, 
and no one who knew his character could expect 
him to act otherwise. He was a born fighter 
and the blood of his soldier ancestors ran ever 
hot in his veins. 

So he went back towards "Old Armand," as 
our poilus call the Hartmannsweilerkopf, which 
they pronounced "Armand Fallieres Kopf," and 
so "Old Armand." 

About nine o'clock he perceived a solitary two- 
seater machine, a very swift little Albatross. 

He dived headlong behind it without trying 
in his haste to place himself beneath it in the 
"dead" angle of its tail. Doubtless the enemy 
machine gunner had perceived him and, being 
well situated to fire, pulled trigger and hit him 
first in the head. Suddenly Rockwell's machine 
was seen falling out of control. The speed of 
his fall increased and as the motor was running 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 79 

full speed a wing broke off at about ten thousand 
feet. Rockwell fell about a mile from the lines, 
near the village of Rodern, where some artillery- 
men carried his body. Learning the news from 
the Rodern doctor, I immediately informed his 
brother Paul in Paris and sent a tractor to fetch 
the body. 

From the ground, Lufbery was an impotent 
spectator of Rockwell's death, as well as that of 
the French Captain Munch, who had been 
brought down in flames at the same time almost 
over his own field. 

Rockwell's brother arrived that night and the 
morrow we made a solemn pilgrimage to the spot 
where he had fallen. Cautiously, for the lines 
were close and the enemy could see us, the ar- 
tillerymen led us to the exact spot where he had 
fallen in this plain of Alsace, where so many 
famous fights had been fought and where so 
many brave men had lost their lives. Greatly 
moved at the sight of the wrecked machine, we 
saluted and stood in silent prayer. 

In the hope of taking our minds off this sad 
subject and especially for the sake of Paul Rock- 
well, who was utterly overcome at the thought of 



80 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

never seeing again his dearly loved brother, with 
whom he had shared the hardships of the For- 
eign Legion, I decided to drive home by Giro- 
magny and the Ballon of Alsace. The wonder- 
ful grandeur of the scenery soothed our grief a 
little by giving us something else to think about. 

With the same object I stopped at the crest 
of the Ballon for lunch. It was a warm day 
and we sat down at the foot of the monument 
of Jeanne d'Arc, Lorraine's greatest daughter, 
near a clear spring. Our hearts were very heavy, 
but nature all around us was full of life 
and sunshine and during so pitiless a war 
one had to force one's self to give way to 
sorrow. 

The funeral took place on the 25th of Sep- 
tember. All the civil and military inhabitants 
of Luxeuil were present. The townsfolk had 
\ stripped their gardens for flowers to deck our 
comrade's bier. In the cemetery, before the cof- 
fin, hidden beneath flags and flowers, it devolved 
on me to pay a last tribute to our dead friend. 
I could give no higher praise than to tell simply 
what he had done. 

The following day Lufbery set out with re- 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 81 

doubled ardour and as everything required had 
now arrived, the other pilots were also able to 
begin work. 

Just at that time my turn for leave came round, 
so I went off to Biarritz, after having asked Cap- 
tain Happe if he knew the date of our mission. 
As he replied that he didn't expect it would take 
place immediately, I felt free to go. 

But on my way back, while passing through 
Paris on the 13th of October, I learned from the 
official communique that the expedition had 
taken place the preceding day against the Mauser 
factory at Oberndorf. What had happened? 
It appeared that orders to carry out the mission 
had come suddenly from headquarters on Oc- 
tober 11th. 

Sixty machines took part in it, slow Farmans, 
heavy Breguets, with "pusher" propellors, old 
out-of-date planes flown by the French, accom- 
panied by Sopwiths and still more Breguets, 
flown by Canadian, Australian and South Afri- 
can pilots of the Royal Navy. Our four Nieu- 
ports flown by Lufbery, Prince, Masson and Lt. 
de Laage de Meux, who was in command of 
them, were to act as guards. The start couldn't 



82 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

take place until very late in the evening, as the 
bombing machines couldn't be got ready before. 
The planes flew off in sections, owing to the dif- 
ference of speed. The Sopwiths, the best bomb- 
ing planes in those days, carried out their mis- 
sion without difficulty, but the Farmans, which 
were the first to start, were unable to make much 
height owing to their heavy load. The lines were 
crossed towards St. Die to mislead the Germans. 
Unfortunately they were forced to pass no higher 
than 1200 feet from the ground as the hills in 
that neighbourhood were already three thousand 
feet above sea level. Adjutant Baron one of the 
most splendid pilots who ever flew, received a 
shell fair and square in his machine, which was 
blown to atoms. 

"If I die," ran his last instructions, "do not 
grieve for me, but grieve for those who are left 
behind. It is more glorious to be dead than liv- 
ing in a war like this." 

It took the bombing planes five hours to carry 
out their missions, and our Nieuports, who had 
only enough gas for two hours were instructed 
to escort them up to the Rhine in the region of 
Ettenheim, then go back and fill their tanks and 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 83 

return to meet them at the same spot on their way 
home. 

The journey out went off all right, but as soon 
as our bomb planes were deprived of their pro- 
tection, the Boches took advantage of this. 
However, losses were not too heavy, and the fac- 
tories were set on fire by the famous Gros Bombs 
whose destructive power was terrible. They 
were composed of a mixture of two liquids (hy- 
dro-carbure and peroxide of azote). Our Amer- 
icans went back to fill their tanks at Corcieux, 
according to plan, and then flew up again to seek 
their convoy; the latter, however, had scattered 
and the whole valley of the Rhine was a medley 
of aeroplanes, trying to reform and get back to 
our lines, pursued by Boche fighting planes. 
Unfortunately six French machines failed to re- 
turn. Our pilots had little time that day to ad- 
mire the beautiful scenery of the Rhine valley. 
Directly they reached it there was work for them 
to do. The bomb planes gathered round each 
of them for protection just as sheep huddle be- 
hind their faithful dogs when the wolf draws 
near. 

Whenever an Albatros appeared a Nieuport 



84 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

dashed upon him and put him to flight. So well 
did they work that several convoys were thus 
protected, each one by a single fighting plane. 

The Boches finally gave up the struggle alto- 
gether after having lost some of their number 
from the machine gun fire of our pilots. 

Prince was protecting the last of these con- 
voys and refused to abandon it on any pretext 
whatever, for it had been entrusted to his care. 
The result was that by the time he got back to 
our lines it was already dark. The nearest aero- 
drome was Corcieux, a tiny field, situated in a 
hollow between lofty mountains. By day land- 
ing there was by no means easy, and in the dark- 
ness, when Prince made for it, there was no 
other illumination save a few cans of essence, 
whose contents had been spilt and set on fire. 

Prince failed to see an electric power line bor- 
dering the field and capsized against the wires. 
He was picked up with both legs badly broken 
and behaved like a true hero, asking for news of 
his comrades and trying to sing so as to allay 
the anxiety of his rescuers. They bore him to 
the hospital of the Lake Hotel at Gerardmer, 
where the surgeons reported that there were good 



^. 



i 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 85 

grounds for hope. On the morning of the 14th, 
I went to see him. He had grown suddenly 
worse during the night. I was deputed to confer 
on him the Cross of Chevalier of the Legion of 
Honour in the name of General Joffre, who had 
just granted it to him in recognition of the work 
he had done. 

I gave it to him in his hospital cot, in the 
presence of Red Cross nurses, who were crying. 
His condition was desperate, as a result of a clot 
of blood on the brain. He was dying of an em- 
bolism just when they were beginning to hope 
he was out of danger. 

We were all terribly distressed at the thought 
of losing a friend so gentle and lovable and 
withal so brave, who had been the originator of 
the American Escadrille. His two uncles ar- 
rived and could judge how hopeless was his case. 

He passed away on Sunday morning, Oc- 
tober 15. 

The military funeral was held on the Luxeuil 
aviation field where the body rested on a caisson, 
draped with the American and French flags. 
The services were attended by a large representa- 
tion of the Allied military divisions, including 



86 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

French and English officers of high rank and a 
full representation of the American Escadrille 
and pilots from other aviation camps. The body 
was borne to a neighbouring chapel, there to rest 
until the end of the war, in accordance with mili- 
tary regulations. 

A memorial service, held on the following Sun- 
day in the American Church in Paris, was one of 
the most impressive ever held in that sanctuary. 

It was the testimony of all Prince's comrades 
that they did not think he minded going. He 
wanted to do his part before he fell — and he had 
more than accomplished that purpose. He had 
engaged in 122 aerial engagements with enemy 
planes and he had been credited with five Boches, 
brought down in battle, not including others 
not officially recorded. He had successively 
achieved the ranks of sergeant, adjutant and lieu- 
tenant, and he had won all the emblems of dis- 
tinguished service that France had to bestow — 
the Croix de Guerre, the Medaille Militaire and 
the Cross of Chevalier of the Legion d'Honneur. 

The nobility of his character had endeared him 
to all who knew him. He was yet another Amer- 
ican who had given his life for France. They 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 87 

were faithful unto death, these sons of the Land 
Across the Seas, just for the love they bore our 
country. How high his reputation stood in the 
army — even among the enemy — was illustrated 
by the chaplain at the funeral who was told by 
the commanding officer that he was anxious that 
Prince's death should not be known to the enemy 
— he was so valuable a flyer. 

One of Prince's uncles said to me after the 
death of his brave nephew: "No, his death will 
not be in vain for hundreds of others in America 
will come to take his place. Even after his death 
he will be serving France." And it was true. 

His brother, Frederick H. Prince, Jr., arrived 
too late to see Norman alive. At his request he 
was promptly transferred to his late brother's 
Escadrille, that he might take his place. 



CHAPTER V 
The Somme — Cachy Wood — Amiens — Winter 

The losses, one after the other, had saddened 
our stay in Luxeuil. Now that our mission had 
been accomplished we were eager for a change, 
so Headquarters delighted us by giving orders 
that we should move to Cachy in the Department 
of the Somme, where almost all our fighting 
planes were concentrated. Masson, Lufbery and 
I flew over there, while our lorries accomplished 
the journey by easy stages. 

The other pilots, who had no machines, took 
the train for Paris and on the 23rd of October 
we were all at Cachy. . . . 

Cachy and its wood, how those words stand 
out in the story of French aviation. Never did 
our fighting planes do more glorious work than 
during that summer of 1916, both by the vic- 
tories it won and by the fruits those victories 
bore. 

Cachy evokes the names of Guynemer, Heur- 

88 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 89 

teaux, Dorme, Deullin, de la Tour, Vialet, Fla- 
chaire, Nungesser, Pinsard and a host of others, 
who there won undying fame. 

The battle had begun on the 1st of July, al- 
though the struggle at Verdun was still in prog- 
ress. Just as the Germans had made a great 
concentration of air forces for the latter opera- 
tion, so Colonel Bares assembled yet larger and 
stronger forces for the Somme. 

At Verdun the Germans had been unable to 
prevent us from recovering the upper hand in 
the air, with difficulty and at heavy cost it is 
true, but we had done it nevertheless during the 
month of March, thanks to our pilots who fol- 
lowed the example of Navarre and Boillot and 
were stimulated by the gallant Chaput, who once, 
when his machine-gun jammed, showed how to 
bring down a Boche without firing a shot. He 
had actually cut in half the body of his op- 
ponent's plane with his own propellor, a terrible 
risk to take. The American Escadrille had 
reached Verdun in May and our subsequent su- 
periority was beyond question. 

On the Somme, thanks to our "Aces" and our 
methods of fighting, the German aviation was 



90 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

distinctly outclassed from the beginning and lost 
more ground each day that passed. All the re- 
ports at that period go to prove that the German 
aviation was never able to pull itself together 
during the whole of this six months' battle. It 
was only when the bad weather of the Winter 
season gave them a breathing space that they 
were able to recover. 

Those were fine times in the fighting service! 
Every day dozens of machines were brought 
down by our pilots. The English on their side 
were putting up a splendid performance. And 
our losses were light. Deullin had formulated 
a code of fighting tactics, which was exceedingly 
clear and simple. It gave magnificent results 
and may be summed up pretty much as follows: 

1. Never attack without looking behind you. 

2. Attack a single-seater from behind and 
above, then break the combat by a "chandelle," 
and always maintain a superiority of altitude. 

3. Attack a two-seater by getting under its tail 
in the "dead" angle formed by the stabilizator, 
and stay there to prevent him taking you un- 
awares. 

4. Fly always waving around and break com- 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 91 

bat when expedient by a clever "renversement." 

Tireless, Guynemer and the rest flew as much 
as nine hours a day. They were bringing down 
Boches and one single Nieuport cleared the air 
around him. It was still the fine period of fight- 
ing for a lone pilot, who, moreover, was less 
likely than a patrol to alarm a foe who had been 
rendered cautious by many defeats. 

A new machine of meteoric speed, 125 miles 
an hour, terror of novices, who spoke of it with 
bated breath, had just made its appearance. It 
was the Spad, which from the outset, handled by 
Guynemer and his comrades, literally pulverized 
the enemy. 

So at Cachy we were going to keep high com- 
pany and would have to put our best foot fore- 
most if we wished to make a good showing 
against them. We were assigned to the group 
of Escadrille n° 13, commanded by Major Fe- 
quant, a leader who gave the example by never 
sparing himself in the least. We were destined 
to stay with him until the end. 

W^e lost several days in going to fetch our ma- 
chines, but at the end of the month we were able 
to begin our patrols. 



92 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

An old fortune teller had foretold to Thaw 
that he would be brought down in October. 
This however didn't prevent him from accom- 
panying me on a patrol on October 31st, when I 
was fortunate enough to hit a Boche plane which 
fell out of control in the enemy's lines south of 
Peronne. 

All the same Thaw was pretty glad when he 
had landed. The month of October was passed 
and he was due to go on leave to the United 
States. The attraction of spending a fortnight 
in New York far outweighed the danger of all 
the Boche submarines. 

Just at thut time I received my first Spad with 
a 140 H. P. Hispano-Suiza engine. I was not 
a little proud of it; it worked magnificently and 
the engine was wonderful, easy to handle and 
developed speed unheard of at that epoch. 

Unfortunately, fine days were growing few 
and far between and we were only able to fly 
occasionally. 

The Somme is a foggy neighbourhood, and 
that particular winter from the 15th of Novem- 
ber up to the 15th of January there weren't at 
the outside more than a dozen days suitable for 



THE LAFAyAtE ESCADRILLE 93 

flying. Low fog and rain kept us continually 
shut up in our wretched shed, hidden in Cachy 
wood. What mud! What mud! 'twas enough 
to make you think that all the quagmires of Po- 
land, so dreaded once by Napoleon the First, 
had made their rendezvous on the banks of the 
Somme. To visit a neighbouring Escadrille, if 
you left the duckboard you ran the risk of being 
bogged or at least of leaving your boots in a 
mud hole. 

This time we had to see about our own quar- 
ters as well as continue our flying work. Pre- 
viously the Escadrille had always been settled 
very comfortably. Both at the Pomme d'Or Ho- 
tel and at the Bar-le-Due villa we had found 
spacious kitchens and all the paraphernalia 
needed. In Cachy Wood there was none of all 
that, and without the kindness of neighbouring 
Escadrilles we would have died of hunger. But 
one never dies of hunger in France. The Stork 
Escadrille n° 3, commanded by Major Brocard, 
and Escadrille n° 67, commanded by Captain de 
Saint-Sauveur, who had been on the spot for sev- 
eral months, were really exceedingly good to us. 
Nevertheless, we had to get out and hustle our- 



94 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

selves, and shortly after our arrival, Thaw asked 
me to let him go to Paris and make the necessary 
arrangements; I sent him with Masson. Thaw 
immediately went to Dr. Gros and with the help 
of the Escadrille's usual benefactors all the stuff, 
stoves, cooking utensils, etc., was quickly bought. 
There was no question of transporting all these 
goods by train, so a swift Ford, piloted by our 
good friend Allan Muhr, brought it all to Cachy. 

Everything was now all right and our Esca- 
drille's table at once acquired a well deserved 
reputation. A remarkable chef, who had been 
employed in embassies, if you please, was found 
in a neighbouring regiment. Our creature com- 
forts were thus assured and not badly at that. 

Then we all busied ourselves with the improve- 
ments of our quarters. As they stood they were 
really cheerless and penetrated by all the winds 
that blew. So the American shed soon re- 
echoed to the hammering of nails, as everybody 
set up barriers of matchboarding and woodwork 
against the cold and damp or made tables, wash- 
ing-stands, etc. At this job the Americans were 
always the quickest to be thoroughly settled. 
Other Escadrilles managed perhaps to provide 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 95 

more elaborate quarters, but they spent a great 
deal more time over it. However, there was one 
thing here I would like to mention that surprised 
me not a little : 

One always hears people talk of the love of 
comfort of the English and the Americans as 
being greater than that of the French. It is 
false, absolutely false. During this war I have 
often seen the English and Americans put up 
with the most primitive quarters without the least 
attempt to improve them, whereas the French al- 
ways tried to better their "wigwam." Doubtless 
because our people were more afraid of the cold, 
but just the same they were- thus better protected 
against illness brought on by the winter. In the 
French climate the Anglo-Saxon races are much 
more liable than we are to bronchitis and pneu- 
monia. An American who had lived in the 
North of France for several years once said to 
me: "I used to laugh heartily at the French 
dread of draughts, but now I believe you are 
right. The customs of a country should always 
be respected." 

As regards food it was much the same as for 
quarters. Taking it by and large it is my opin- 



96 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

ion that the French soldier was the best fed and 
for this reason he had the best cooks. Take 
any Frenchman and make him a cook and he'll 
turn you out something eatable. It isn't the same 
with the English and the Americans. However, 
they can appreciate good food just as much as we 
can, but in default of it they seem to get along 
quite happily. 

The question was what to do in the long win- 
ter evenings. We used to sit and warm our- 
selves around the stove. It was a great joy when 
the American mail came in, sacks full at a time. 
The whole big table was hidden under the pile 
of American newspapers and their ever-interest- 
ing supplements. 

One of our favourite pastimes was to hunt in 
these newspapers for anything about the Esca- 
drille. The papers of New York, Chicago and 
Pittsburg used all of them to "play up" those 
pilots who were their fellow-townsmen. We 
were also not a little interested in reading about 
the great doings of fake American aviators! 
Their "gallant deeds" were told at great length 
and there were full details of receptions given in 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 97 

their honour. Generally they had never even 
crossed the Atlantic! ! ! This used to make my 
pilots absolutely furious and if they could have 
laid their hands on one of these imposters he 
would have fared pretty badly. 

Some of our fellows used to write their 
memoirs, others would start a mild game of 
poker, or begin throwing dice upon the table, 
accompanying their game with ferocious cries. 
Artists would decorate the walls of the room with 
original drawings, representing air battles. 
Genet was the best at this kind of work. 

But I don't know what would have become of 
us without the gramophone. We had two very 
good ones and Hill had brought back from 
America a whole series of excellent records, so 
that the strains of fox-trot or rag-time alter- 
nated with airs from French or Italian operas 
according to the taste of the individual. 

Lufbery preferred strange melodies, often mel- 
ancholy in character, which are, it appears, very 
popular in America. It was Hawaiian music, 
tunes played by a sort of banjo called Ukelele. 

These tunes were generally very beautiful and 



98 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

in listening to them Lufbery used to dream of 
the distant strands where he had lived and their 
spreading palm trees. But the note of melan- 
choly was quickly forgotten and Lufbery him- 
self was the first to shake it off in telling some 
of his innumerable experiences of travels far and 
wide. 

Lufbery used to tell us of his life of adven- 
ture, his wanderings across the world. A mere 
boy, he had left France, where he had been 
brought up, and travelled over Europe, Turkey 
and India. For a living he did what came to 
hand, often changing his occupation. Hoping to 
travel more he enlisted for three years in the 
American army, and visited Hawaii and the 
Philippines. After its discharge he wandered to 
Calcutta at a time when Marc Pourpe came there 
to give aeroplane exhibitions. The latter one 
day advertised in a local newspaper for a me- 
chanic. Lufbery, who had never seen an aero- 
plane motor in his life, volunteered for the job, 
'T know nothing about it," he said, "but Til 
learn quick." He became the faithful comrade 
and friend of Pourpe, whom he accompanied on 
a flying trip through the Sudan to Khartoum. 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 99 

On the outbreak of war Pourpe having been mo- 
bilized as a pilot, Lufbery stayed with him as 
mechanic. Pourpe was killed and Lufbery be- 
came a pilot to avenge him. 

We were delighted with his stories, and then 
when he stopped the phonograph would begin 
again its twangy song, and the ardent dancers 
among us would give vent to the restlessness of 
their feet by performing a clog dance with their 
heels rapping a saraband on the floor. 

One day we made a trip to the trenches and 
when we got home, after comparing their life 
with that of the infantry, all the pilots decided 
that they were relatively fortunate and expressed 
their loud admiration for the humble toil of the 
men who ever mounted guard before No Man's 
Land. They had seen too the ruin that had been 
spread over our country, the wounded earth ren- 
dered barren for many years to come. One of 
the things that struck them the most was to have 
seen in the cemetery of Dampierre all the tombs 
torn open, profaned, violated and transformed 
into "abris." The dead were dead indeed, why 
could not the Germans let them sleep in peace? 

Sometimes — and this was a very different 



100 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

story — we took at nightfall, which came early 
in December, the road for Amiens, which was 
only about six miles away. Amiens was the 
rendezvous for the French and British Armies. 
Crowds of soldiers in every variety of uniform 
thronged its streets and shops, to say nothing of 
the cafes, bars, and tea-shops. 

The English element was in majority at the 
Savoy Bar or at Charley's, but there was the best 
of good fellowship between them and the French, 
to which our Americans were immediately ad- 
mitted. In this connection I remember that one 
very dark night in a street that was darker still 
there appeared before us on our way out of 
Amiens a soul in pain. He was lying right be- 
neath our feet at the foot of an extinguished 
lamp. Investigation revealed that he was a 
Scotchman, for he was wearing the famous tar- 
tan breeches. 

It was cold and raining heavily. We couldn't 
leave him there, for certainly an M. P. would 
have roped him in and he'd have got into trouble. 

It was quite out of the question to ask him 
what unit he belonged to, for he was far past 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE ' 101 

speech. It took but a moment to install him in 
the bottom of our car and so we took him off to 
Cachy Wood. 

There I fixed him up comfortably on a camp 
bed, where he slept until noon the following day. 
One cannot imagine the utter stupefaction of the 
Scot when he awoke to find himself surrounded 
by men wearing French uniforms but speaking 
English! ! ! 

His first words were: "What, I've been taken 
prisoner?" 

It was then our turn to be surprised. For the 
moment nothing we could say would alter his 
opinion. He thought he was in German terri- 
tory as a result of some mysterious mishap, all 
memory of which had passed from his mind. 
He was convinced that we were spies instructed 
to make him talk, and accordingly refused to tell 
either his regiment or the spot where it was lo- 
cated. The situation was really too ridiculous. 

At last I said to him in desperation: "You're 
free, don't you understand, free; you're with the 
American Escadrille, which is fighting in the 
French army. It was rather a shock to our self- 



102 I'HE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

esteem to learn that he had never even heard of 
us. But in the end we persuaded him to listen 
to reason. 

After having visited our hangars and taken 
lunch with us — his appetite was conspicuously 
poor — I lent him a car to take him back to his 
camp. He was a nice fellow, I believe a well- 
known golfer, but I hope he will forgive me for 
having forgotten his name. 

Soubiran, Haviland and Frederick Prince 
joined the Escadrille at this time. The latter, 
who had come to take his brother's place, was 
transferred to Pau as an instructor in the aviation 
school. 

We used to profit by the few glimpses of fine 
weather, but the Boche was very scarce; he was 
quietly reorganizing for the Spring and paid no 
attention to our efforts to draw him out. 

However, he did make up his mind to carry 
out some bombing raids on occasional fine nights, 
for often after sunset the sky would grow clear. 

We had long set the enemy an example and 
finally he resolved to imitate us, and I must ad- 
mit that two of his first efforts met with pretty 
fair success. 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 103 

Once he burnt a hangar fifty yards from our 
shed and its contents, a dozen Spads, went up in 
flames. It was a hangar of the Stork Escadrille 
and Guynemer's machine was amongst those de- 
stroyed. However a new one w^as ready for him 
the following day. 

Another enemy plane set fire to a huge muni- 
tion dump at Cerisy-Gailly. Every one who 
fought on the Somme will remember this extraor- 
dinary "firework" display; a million shells ex- 
ploded. It was a pretty good reply to the blow 
we had given the Germans some weeks before in 
the neighbourhood of St. Quentin, when one of 
their dumps was bombed and its explosions were 
heard to continue for three days. 

We tried to attack enemy raiders by night, 
very dangerous work for such swift planes as 
ours. De Laage and Pavelka were especially 
ardent on these occasions. 

It was at this moment that I chose the In- 
dian's Head as insignia for our machines and 
soon there was no more popular emblem in all 
the flying world. The savage Sioux with his 
threatening expression, drew all eyes to the body 
of the plane on which it was painted. It was 



104 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

moreover a real work of art. Willis perfected 
and gave its final form to the sketch that had 
been first drawn by the mechanic Suchet. 

Towards the beginning of November we re- 
ceived the following curious message from the 
Minister of War: "For diplomatic reasons Es- 
cadrille 124 will henceforth be called the Volun- 
teer Escadrille. It is expedient to abandon the 
title 'American Escadrille.' " 

The reason for this was as follows: so-called 
Americans resident in Germany had complained 
that we had bombed them in the towns where 
they were staying. Bernstorff had made a pro- 
test to Washington. The charge was false. To 
begin with no American had made a complaint 
and secondly we had never done any bombing 
but had always worked as fighting planes. But 
France, being anxious to avoid diplomatic inci- 
dents on her account between the United States 
and Germany, was particularly careful to main- 
tain a line of conduct that was perfectly correct. 
We were furious, but happily we were to have 
our revenge. Thanks to Dr. Gros and Captain 
Berthaud, attached to the Ministry of War, we 




Fire caused by Boches on our Seiiart iicid. 




Fire caused by Boches on our Senart field. 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 105 

received a new message as follows: "6th De- 
cember, 1916. The Minister of War announces 
that the Volunteer Escadrille will henceforth be 
called the 'Lafayette Escadrille.' " 

This announcement was communicated to 
every Escadrille in France and henceforth we 
were never known by any other name. Our in- 
signia, as well as the name of the Escadrille, 
indicated frankly and boldly the origin of our 
pilots. The Germans could never have had the 
least doubt on the subject. 

The gloomy Winter dragged on. . . . Ah, 
Peronne, Sailly-Saillisel, Bouchavesnes, Chaul- 
nes, how dreary it was to fly above your ruins, 
the sun ever hidden and your sites so pock- 
marked with water-filled shell craters as to give 
appearance of a country in the moon. 

Imagine our joy when we got a really fine day 
on December 27th. Every one was out fighting 
from the earliest hours, and Lufbery profited by 
the occasion to bring down an enemy plane south 
of Chaulnes. In the morning he had missed 
another through his machine gun jamming, and 
had received no less than seven bullets in his 



106 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

own plane during the battle. Just at that mo- 
ment Guynemer brought down a Boche quite 
close to Lufbery. 

Then came the frost, very severe frost. There 
was no more mud but we had enough to worry 
about w^ith the motors of our Spads. To begin, 
there were no protective shutters for the radia- 
tors. We had to find some means of supplying 
the deficiency ourselves, and put it into practice, 
which took a lot of time. The ground was so 
hard as a result of the frost that the tires of our 
wheels burst at every landing. Luckily the 
Boche was still very inactive. 

On the 24th of January, Lufbery brought 
down yet another enemy and our junior pilots 
learned skill from his example. Thaw too had 
returned from America and was getting busy. 
Hoskier joined us at the beginning of December 
and Genet and Parsons towards the end of Janu- 
ary. On January 26th we moved over to Rav- 
enel near St. Just-en-Chaussee. It was to be- 
gin the preparation of a new offensive which was 
to take place in the Spring. We had instruc- 
tions to show ourselves as little as possible in 
this sector so as not to attract the attention of 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 107 

the enemy, and, as the Bodies were as much ham- 
pered by the cold as we were, the month of Feb- 
ruary was exceedingly quiet. 

The rupture of diplomatic relations between 
the United States and Germany gave us food 
for conversation, although great differences of 
opinion existed amongst my pilots as to what 
was likely to follow. President Wilson was 
sending his Notes to the Germans. Although we 
did not see clearly his motives, the President 
knew what he was about. He was determined 
to neglect no chance of conciliation, however 
small it might be, instead of throwing his people 
headlong into the vortex. My pilots were too 
impatient to understand fully the prudence that 
must accompany great responsibilities. 

We were much more disturbed over the cold. 
Everything that would burn went into the stove 
and once we had read the bulky Sunday editions 
there was no question what to do with them. 
Thaw's young brother Blair, who two years 
later was to give his life for his country had 
chosen this moment to pay a visit to his brother 
at the Escadrille. He couldn't stand the ter- 
rible cold in our matchboard sheds and we had 



108 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

to send him back to Paris suffering from high 
fever. 

To warm himself Soubiran used to go hunt- 
ing the numerous partridges and hares of the 
neighbourhood and it was not uncommon to see 
him suddenly dash breathless into the shed, 
hastily hide his gun, plunge under the bed 
clothes and appear to be sound asleep. That 
meant that the forest rangers were after him hot 
and heavy, for hunting was forbidden. But our 
Chef did make such delicious jugged hare! 

We had managed to get a piano at the town 
of Clermont, and Bigelow, playing with all his 
might, with the same idea of keeping warm, used 
to give us his whole repertoire with inimitable 
talent. On the 23rd of February Lufbery re- 
ceived the Cross of the Legion of Honour and 
we made a great celebration. A banquet was 
given to the Lafayette Escadrille over which Ma- 
jor Fequant presided. At the end of the month 
Willis, Lovel and Hinkle joined the Escadrille; 
the latter fell sick and only remained with us a 
short time. The other two subsequently became 
excellent pilots. 



The last patrol of Mac Connell. 




Lo-,vcll. 



Genet. 



Lufber\-. Mac roniiel 




Ham Aerodrome. 



CHAPTER VI 

Spring and renewed activity — General advance — ^Losses — 
Ham — Chaudun — Battle of the Aisne 

Our rest was drawing to an end and a period 
of very hard work about to begin. The Boches, 
who had been badly hammered by the soldiers 
of Joffre during the Battle of the Somme, were 
beginning their preparations for retreat towards 
St. Quentin and the famous Hindenburg line, 
and we were the first to perceive it. Villages 
and depots were being burned and it was sad to 
see the houses of my fair France thus destroyed. 
Another indication, — rails were being taken up 
and the artillery fire was diminishing. Our 
work grew to be uninterrupted for we had to ob- 
tain exact information as to the enemy's inten- 
tions. 

The Boche thought to interfere with our of- 
fensive that was being prepared on the Mont- 
didier front by an "elastic retreat" upon very 

109 



no THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

strong positions that had been carefully prepared 
and against which they hoped our strength would 
be shattered. It was not such a bad idea. But 
we did not fall into the trap and immediately be- 
gan to dig new trenches when we reached the out- 
skirts of their fortified lines. 

On the 15th of March our artillery bombarded 
the Boches who were left in their first lines with 
the object of starting our advance. Our troops 
went forward under the command of General 
Nivelle, who had succeeded General Joffre. 

For some days the whole army thrilled with 
new enthusiasm. To go forward after months 
of stagnation, what joy for all the soldiers and 
for all France. It seemed to every one that we 
would never stop before the Rhine, or at least 
on the Meuse. Our chiefs, however, and espe- 
cially the aviators, knew that the Hindenburg 
line was very formidable with its stretches of 
barbed wire in some places literally miles deep. 
The German retreat took place during the night, 
by day the roads were deserted and it was in 
vain we looked for convoys that we might scat- 
ter them with our machine guns. We never saw 
any. 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 111 

On the 17th of March in the small hours of 
the morning, while it was still dark, I was 
awakened by the telephone. Zeppelins were 
making for Paris, passing by Compiegne. 
Without losing an instant we set off in pursuit 
and reached Compiegne just in time to see one 
brought down in flames by artillery fire. What 
a glorious torch it made as it fell, and what a 
thrilling sight was this long reptile, twisted and 
burnt, as it lay smashed upon the ground. 

That day too the French made a big jump for- 
ward in their pursuit of the enemy. 

At this time the Tsar abdicated in Russia, 
but already we had begun to feel that the entry 
of America into the war was at hand. Not only 
had diplomatic relations been broken but the cur- 
rent of bold and generous ideals was flowing 
strong. As my pilots said to me joking: "Cap- 
tain, you're going to be replaced, you will soon 
be no longer the Commander-in-Chief of the 
Americans — General Pershing is coming soon to 
succeed you in your high office." How I re- 
joiced for my country's sake that the Americans 
were coming in. 

On the 16th of March Thaw went to Paris 



112 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

to get a Spad. He took with him Whiskey, now 
grown big, to consult an oculist, for our poor lion 
had had an eye knocked out by a blow of a stick 
by Rumsey. 

Our idea was to have them give him a glass 
eye, but Thaw had no luck. All the doctors to 
whom he applied — were far too frightened to 
hear of it. And yet we were prepared to pay 
heavily to restore to our lion his former aesthetic 
appearance. 

With the veterinaries Billy had no better suc- 
cess. He then went to the Zoological Gardens, 
where the keepers were all frightend and 
couldn't believe their eyes at seeing a lion cub 
permit himself to be handled like that and play- 
ing with the dog Fram which Thaw had taken 
along. With animals much smaller than Whis- 
key they took many precautions. "You are a 
wonderful lion tamer," they said to Thaw, but 
they too declined to have anything to do with the 
operation. 

As it happened a lioness had lately had cubs 
and Thaw took advantage of this to buy a com- 
panion for our mascot. Could we give our new 
acquisition any other name but "Soda"? 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 113 

On the 18th Thaw flew back on his Spad and 
had his menagerie transported to the Escadrille 
in cages. 

The 19th of March was a stirring day for us, 
De Laage and Thaw made a magnificent scout- 
ing trip over St. Quentin, diving down at each 
doubtful spot, at each clump of trees, at each 
village to be met by bullets betraying when they 
were occupied. They were warmly congratu- 
lated by Commander Fequant. Then Genet and 
MacConnell went out in turn. Between Ham and 
St. Quentin they were attacked by several enemy 
planes. MacConnell didn't come back and was 
reported "missing." Genet's account ran as fol- 
lows: "With Sergeant MacConnell, entered en- 
emy's lines north-east of Ham, and made to- 
wards St. Quentin. At Douchy three enemy 
planes flying above us attacked. While fighting 
with one of them who fired incendiary bullets at 
me I lost sight of MacConnell. I hit my enemy, 
but during this time the third Boche opened 
heavy fire upon me from a distance of 25 yards 
and cut a strut, one of my wingtip controls and 
wounded me in the left cheek. No longer see- 
ing MacConnell, I made back to our lines, where 



114 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

I awaited him fifteen minutes above Ham. 
North of Ham villages were burning and from 
the same region too a battery opened fire upon 
me." 

Poor Jimmy! We were all so fond of him. 
Looking at the first photograph taken at Luxeuil 
of the first five members of the Escadrille, three 
of whom, Chapman, Rockwell and Prince, had 
already disappeared, MacConnell, who with me 
was the only survivor, once said to me: "It is 
my turn next, and it would have been better that 
I had been killed rather than Chapman. He 
would have done better work than I for he was a 
cleverer pilot." 

What a modest fellow he was, and what a 
noble spirit of calm philosophy was taken from 
us at his death. And when I look at the tragic 
photograph, as we used to call it, in which I 
alone am left alive, my heart is very heavy at 
the thought of my brave comrades. 

MacConnell's exact fate only became known 
to us a few days later. 

This same day of the 19th. Thaw, who had 
landed at Nesles in front of our vanguard, had 
trouble with his motor and couldn't start off 




''^^^.. 0>^- 



A Xieuport \'ickers. 




A fort at (he Wcs-t of A'erdi 






la^g^m 



At each}' — a Spad of the Stork Escadrille. 




An enemy plane burned the Stork's hangar. 




Cachv Wood in the snow. 




Dudlev Hill. 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 115 

again. Luckily the Boches had no thought of 
offensive action and were filled with the idea of 
running to earth in the Hindenburg line. 

To repair Thaw's motor we had to pass 
through an army on the move, which was not 
easy, owing to the choked condition of the roads, 
many of which had been rendered useless by the 
enemy. The job was done by the help of Sou- 
biran, who had once been mechanic in the cele- 
brated Indianapolis races. At Roye the road 
had been destroyed by vast mine craters and all 
the trees bordering it were cut, sawn almost 
wholly through so that they stood upright only 
by force of habit, as it were, and were brought 
down on the road by the slightest breeze. 

Words cannot describe the joy of the inhabi- 
tants who embraced us now that an end had been 
put to their sufferings, their long martyrdom 
with its fines, prison, deportations and thousand 
and one other vexations, which they had to re- 
late. In later days such a sight was to be all 
too familiar to American fighters also. 

On March 24th I took my Spad and landed 
near Ham. There I asked for an automobile, 
and went from Division to Division, asking if 



116 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

any one had news of Jim MacConnell. Finally 
I learned that a machine had been reported in a 
field by the road from Bois L'Abbe to Petit De- 
troit about a mile and a half south of Jussy. I 
managed to get there not without difficulty, for 
the Germans were still just on the other side of 
the canal. It was indeed MacConnell's Nieu- 
port with its emblem. Beside it lay his body, 
which had been taken out of the machine. All 
his papers had been removed and the Germans 
had even carried off his boots. 

With the aid of Major Uffler of the 48th Bat- 
talion of Chasseurs a pied, I managed to get him 
a decent burial. Beside a little French by-way 
a simple cross invites the passer-by to stop and 
devote a thought, a memory, to the brave fore- 
runner of America's armies, who lies buried there. 

At Ravenel we were then too far away from 
the front, at least forty miles, so we established 
ourselves at Ham on a field formerly used by 
the enemy. 

At this time Ham had not suffered very much, 
as unfortunately has been its case since. It was 
very different with the neighbouring villages, 
which had been completely and deliberately de- 




The Soiiime — the attack September 1916. 




Chauhics — obliiiue \ie\v 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 117 

stroyed by the Germans. In Ham about two- 
thirds of the houses were uninjured, but the 
bridges had been destroyed and the cross-roads 
and public squares were nothing but huge craters 
torn open by the explosion of mines. 

The Germans had more or less spared these 
small towns because they assembled the popula- 
tion of each canton in its principal town. The 
rest of the villages were systematically destroyed, 
the walls overthrown by means of special bat- 
tering rams, the fruit trees cut down and the wells 
poisoned by throwing manure into them. 

The historic castle of Ham, where Louis Na- 
poleon Bonaparte, afterwards Napoleon III, had 
been in prison during the reign of Louis-Phil- 
ippe, was utterly razed to the ground by several 
mines. What a barbarous act to destroy these 
stones a thousand years old without any military 
reason. It was simply the fury of destruction 
which had animated these modem Huns. So 
too had been destroyed the celebrated Castle of 
Coucy. 

At Ham William Dugan and Kenneth Marr, 
who subsequently did very good work, joined the 
Escadrille. Thomas Hewitt also joined us there. 



118 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

On the 8th of April Lt, de Laage brought 
down two enemies one after the other north of 
St. Quentin, thus relieving the pressure on some 
English planes who were in a hot fight. This 
exploit, added to all that he had done before, 
won for him the Legion of Honour, granted on 
April 21st. It was well deserved by this true 
leader of men, whose courage and bearing always 
gave him a remarkable influence over all who 
came in contact with him. Unfortunately, a time 
of cruel losses was coming for the Escadrille. 
On April 16th young Genet was killed in full 
flight by a shell south of St. Quentin. He was 
one of our best pilots, the type of man who 
always had to be restrained rather than en- 
couraged; always ready to sacrifice himself. 

I see no harm in relating here that to be ac- 
cepted in the Foreign Legion, in which he had 
first served France, Genet had told a pardonable 
falsehood. He hadn't reached the age required 
for all who wished to volunteer for the Legion, 
so he had deliberately added three years to his 
age to make it twenty-one. Brave Genet! 
Sleep in peace in the France you loved so well! 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 119 

He was the first American to be killed since his 
country had declared war. The American Em- 
bassy in Paris was represented at his funeral by 
Mr. R. W. Bliss and Mr. Ben Thaw, our pilot's 
brother. 

Beside Genet in the cemetery of Ham was all 
too soon to lie his comrade Hoskier, a splendid 
high-souled fellow, whose only thought was to 
fight for the cause that was sacred to him. He 
had the spirit of his father who was still fight- 
ing at Verdun. With Madame Hoskier the lat- 
ter reached Ham Just in time to take part in the 
last sad honours to their son. 

I can give Hoskier no higher praise than to 
say he was a second Chapman. The same fire 
animated them both. General Franchet d'Es- 
perey granted him the following citation: "Ron- 
ald Wood Hoskier, American citizen, volunteer 
in the service of France, the true soul of a hero 
both in bravery and spirit of sacrifice. Fell the 
23rd of April after heroic defence in a fight 
against three enemy machines." 

With Hoskier fell the Frenchman Dressy, the 
faithful orderly of Lt. de Laage. He had asked 



120 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

as a favour to accompany Hoskier as machine- 
gunner in a two-seater. It was the only machine 
of this kind we had in the Escadrille. 

They were attacked by three enemy planes and 
brought down south of St. Quentin near the first 
line. Dressy had begun the war with de Laage 
in a regiment of Dragoons. He had accompan- 
ied him as a matter of course on a dangerous 
patrol, when the officer had his horse shot under 
him and his leg pierced by a bullet. Dressy dis- 
mounted and under a hail of projectiles tenderly 
placed de Laage on his own horse, jumped up 
behind him and brought him back safe to our 
lines. 

De Laage was deeply grieved, as were we all, 
at the loss of his good comrade in arms who had 
saved his life. Some one has said that those 
who are true friends seem to follow each other 
closely to the grave by a sort of mysterious bond. 
On the 23rd of May, de Laage was trying a new 
machine on the Ham field. He had just left the 
ground, when the motor suddenly stopped run- 
ning at a height of 250 feet and the machine 
crashed heavily to earth. We hurried to the spot. 
De Laage had ceased to live. This accident oc- 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 121 

curred frequently because the high compression 
motors we employed were not yet fitted with a 
suitable carburetor, but it was our duty to fly 
whether we were killed or not — it was war and 
we could not forget it. 

Our grief was very great: for me de Laage 
was a true friend, and if one is saddened by the 
death of a comrade, how bitter is the distress 
when one loses a friend. For more than a year 
we had shared troubles, toils and pleasures, and 
suddenly he was gone, leaving a void that noth- 
ing could fill. 

Ham gave him an imposing funeral and in 
the cemetery above his grave I repeated his last 
words, a splendid epitaph for a soldier: "Since 
the formation of the American Escadrille, I have 
tried to exalt the beauty of the ideal which 
brought my American comrades to fight for 
France. I thank them for the friendship and 
confidence they always shown me. If I die do 
not weep for me. It is not good that a soldier 
should let himself give way to sorrow and now 
'Vive la France!' " 

Why was it that we had always thus to steel 
our hearts against regrets and why, as MacCon- 



122 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

nell said, "was it always the best who get killed?" 
Truly this war was dreadful and pitiless. One 
could never stop to grieve. In the melee men had 
to throw themselves one after another like num- 
bers without individuality and yet God knows 
they did not lack character, these French and 
American heroes. It was necessary. It is the 
law of war that, no matter what kind hearts too 
filled with sentimentality may write, only the 
will of the leader, who sets aside pity that might 
lead to weakness, can conquer. "No, War is no 
mere game" — for once Bernstorff had spoken the 
truth. 

"Do not lose time in lamenting me," de Laage 
had said, and if the wound still bled at the bot- 
tom of our hearts we must hide our sorrow and 
continue our work with unflagging spirit. 

And there was work to do. The Boche, who 
in 1916 had been distinctly beaten as far as 
aviation was concerned, had carried out during 
the winter an enormous program of produc- 
tion under the direction of General Groener. In 
the Spring the enemy brought out a great num- 
ber of Albatros D.3 and D,5 single-seater ma- 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 123 

chines superior to anything he had had up till 
then. Luckily the Spad was inimitable. 

The enemy had also instructed a great number 
of pilots and, reaping the fruits of all his prepa- 
rations, he became singularly aggressive. His 
"flying circuses" appeared everywhere and at- 
tacked our artillery observation planes. We 
gave them this name on account of their habitual 
tactics. Seven or eight Albatros would fly in a 
circle of great circumference, round and round 
like horses in the ring at a fair. Woe to the rash 
pilot who attacked one of them. The German, 
who was thus attacked, dived towards the in- 
terior of the circle and broke the combat by a 
sudden manoeuvre while his assailant was at- 
tacked in turn, in an unfavourable position, by 
another enemy, the next in order of the circle. 

In attacking a circus one had to make a single 
dive at one's opponent without getting down be- 
low the level of the circle, then break away by 
a vigorous "chandelle" towards the exterior, giv- 
ing full power to his engine. If the enemy was 
not brought down in the first attack the only 
thing to do was to get away quick, as I have 



124 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

said, without attempting to carry on the fight 
under penalty of being one's self brought down. 

It was at this time too that the Boche com- 
menced the tactics of coming to harass the in- 
fantry with their machine-guns before dawn. In 
the night beyond reach of attack they would 
worry our soldiers, who had given them the name 
"Fantomas." We tried to fight them, and it was 
a strange sight to see our Spads go off in the 
middle of the night. Owing to its speed and its 
complete lack of the "vol-plane," the Spad was 
far from being a perfect machine for night fly- 
ing. If only no motor trouble came before day- 
light! That was always our fervent hope. On 
one of these flights a French comrade named 
Allez had his depth controls completely cut by a 
shell in full career. He managed to land with- 
out great harm by switching off and on his motor 
so that he descended in a series of falls. It was 
yet another case of a man coming back from the 
gates of death. 

Doubtless night fighting gave no results, but 
the noise of our motors pleased the infantry and 
completely reassured them. We could see so lit- 
tle that one day, or rather one night, we made a 




^ j j / 






/ i 



Senart aviation cami) 




Lufbery'i Spad struck by slitll 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 125 

patrol flight with a machine which had joined 
us and it was only at the first streaks of dawn 
that I perceived it bore the hated black crosses 
instead of our friendly tricolor. We attacked 
him but he did not wait for battle and fled at full 
speed. 

To clip the claws of our enterprising enemy 
Lufbery, Thaw, Haviland and Johnson succes- 
sively brought down an aeroplane apiece in the 
same week. 

On April 16th, the Allies began their great 
offensive on the Aisne and in Champagne. The 
first day we got very satisfactory results — 33,000 
prisoners. Unfortunately, the tanks, which we 
were using for the first time, and moreover in 
small number, were not yet in fighting trim and 
many burnt up with their gallant crews, their 
gasoline containers being insufficiently protected. 
The enemy was considerably reinforced by all 
the Divisions he had brought back from Russia, 
and so he reacted violently and set himself to 
retake from us piecemeal what we had captured 
en bloc. From the point of view of aviation it 
was in this latter fighting that the struggle was 
most severe, especially for us as we were not far 



126 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

distant from the scene of action and were con- 
stantly requested to patrol thereabouts. 

During this fighting, Andrew Courtney Camp- 
bell joined the Escadrille and some time after- 
wards there befell him one of the most astound- 
ing adventures that ever happened to any pilot, 
an adventure which made a great stir throughout 
the French flying world. He used to be very 
fond of acrobatic "stunts" and perhaps had 
strained his machine somewhat. Anyway one 
day, flying a Nieuport at about 45,000 feet, his 
lower left wing broke right away, fluttered down 
and fell into the forest of Villers-Cotterets, where 
it never was found. 

The wing was broken off clean, just level with 
the body and at the points of junction with the 
struts. Not a bit of it was left on the plane. 

With this machine, biplane on the right and 
monoplane on the left, Campbell succeeded in 
coming down and landing intact near our aero- 
drome in a field of beetroots. How did he man- 
age ? It was a perfect miracle that the remaining 
wing did not yield in its turn, thus plunging 
Campbell to certain death. 

After the accident all the learned experts of 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 127 

the aviation came along to study such an in- 
credible case and prove that it was possible to 
fly in these conditions. None the less it took a 
man like Campbell with his iron nerve to carry 
out this exploit which remains unique in the 
annals of aviation. 

On the 3rd of June, continuing our wander- 
ings from sector to sector, we had gone to the 
aerodrome of Chaudun, half way between Vil- 
lers-Cotterets and Soissons, right in the Chemin 
des Dames sector. During our stay at Ham the 
record had been 66 pitched battles, 7 enemy 
planes brought down, three of our pilots killed 
and one wounded. As usual directly that a sec- 
tor began to get calm we left it. Perhaps the 
reader is surprised by the comparatively small 
number of battles that ended in a plane being 
brought dowTi. Not only is not so easy to bring 
down an enemy plane — and one must always re- 
member that the foe has a chance of victory just 
as you have — but the French have always been 
very strict as regards the confirmation of vic- 
tories and have always required that an enemy's 
fall be recorded by land observation. I am sure 
that the number of enemy planes brought do\vn 



128 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

was in reality much greater than our records 
showed. To give a definite proof of his vic- 
tories — in cases where the fight was too far be- 
hind the enemy lines to be recorded — Guynemer 
had ended by fixing on his Spad a photographic 
apparatus and in some cases had brought back 
photographs of his victims in pieces or in flames. 

In this sector as in those before, Lufbery con- 
tinued to distinguish himself. He had just been 
decorated with the English Military Medal by 
His Majesty King George V and in a formal ses- 
sion the Aero-Club of France had just granted 
him its grand gold Medal. On the 21st of June 
he was promoted officer, Second Lieutenant in 
the French army. For all his modesty the for- 
mer globe-trotter was very proud of it. 

We were then joined by Bridgman, Drexel, 
Dolan, Jones, Peterson, Mac-Monagle and James 
Hall, an excellent lot of pilots. They set them- 
selves to follow in Lufbery's footsteps, and what 
with their own qualifications and an example 
like his they fully maintained our standard. 

James Norman Hall who had volunteered as 
infantry machine-gunner in the English army 
had been wounded and invalided from the serv- 



Faubourg-St. Leonard. — Nesles. 




Note roofs damasked 1)V cxulosion mine at cross roads. 




Roye. — Nesles. — road cut by mines. 




Funeral of Genet. — l^lie Minister. 




I' uncial (li Uo.skitr and Diessv. 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 129 

ice. He then enlisted in the French army as 
pilot. He was brave to a degree that bordered 
on rashness. On the 26th of June, while at- 
tacking single-handed seven enemy planes over 
the Chemin des Dames during a violent German 
offensive, he was brought down in the French 
lines in the Ravine of Ostel with his breast 
pierced right through. The gallant fight he had 
made had won cheers of applause from the French 
troops, themselves engaged in a bitter struggle, 
and contributed not a little to that day's victori- 
ous resistance. The Crown Prince's troop had 
received orders to hurl the French at all costs 
back into the Aisne. I drove over to fetch Hall 
and it was no easy job on account of the very 
heavy bombardment. Naturally we ran with 
all lights out, the rows of camions followed one 
another and at places crossed each other, the 
teams of horses galloped in the most dangerous 
spots and to drive in .the midst of it all in utter 
darkness took a good deal of nerve and plenty 
of confidence in one's luck. Our chauffeur was 
rather upset by the continual shell bursts, as the 
enemy fired systematically on all the routes of 
communication to interfere with the flow of sup- 



130 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

plies. This used to be called harassing fire. 
Doubtless our batteries were playing the same 
game with the enemy, but from our particular 
point of view that was no compensation, Sou- 
biran once more came to our rescue by taking the 
driving wheel. Hall had already been picked 
up, and we found him at the hospital of Mont 
Notre Dame. 

The tractor which I sent the following night 
to get the wreckage of Hall's machine, was set 
on fire by a shell, but nobody was wounded. 

I proposed Hall for the Military Medal, which 
was immediately granted him. 

Just as when Guynemer had been made Of- 
ficer of the Legion of Honour, his citation had 
mentioned the enthusiasm that his dare-devil 
courage had aroused among the troops in the 
trenches. Less than five months afterwards Hall 
came back to take his place in the Escadrille. 
What a splendid soldier he was! After having 
distinguished himself in the British and French 
armies, he was to become once more conspicuous 
for gallantry in the American army. Few men 
have fought as real combatants in three armies 
and he must hold a unique record. 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 131 

On the 4th of July there was once again a 
great celebration in Paris at the statues of Wash- 
ington and Lafayette. A delegation was there 
to represent the Escadrille, and a big luncheon 
was given in our honour. 

On the 7th of July right in the middle of the 
battle the Lafayette Escadrille received its flag, 
and the whole French Aviation was summoned 
to this ceremony on the field of Chaudun. 

A Battalion of Chasseurs-a-pied — the Blue 
Devils — was also present and its band played 
during the march past, while from the hands of 
Commander Du Peuty, at that time the gallant 
chief of the French Aviation, killed a short while 
afterwards in a charge at the head of his infantry 
battalion, Thaw received the Star Spangled Ban- 
ner, embroidered by the hands of Mrs. MacAdoo 
and the women employees in the Treasury De- 
partment at Washington. The Tricolor bowed 
before the starry flag, the bugles sounded "Au 
Drapeau," and every one felt that it was France 
saluting America. 

There was as yet no more than a band of 
twenty-five pilots grouped in our humble shed, 
but the future was already big with the prepara- 



132 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

tion of numberless air phalanxes which were 
training far over there. We had promised to 
carry this flag on high in all our battles. With 
pilots like mine I had no anxiety; the promise 
would be kept. 

It was at this time that the Escadrille had its 
greatest number of pilots, but in view of their 
continuous arrival Headquarters decided to di- 
rect the surplus of American pilots by ones and 
twos into French Escadrilles. Altogether 212 
Americans had enlisted in the Lafayette Corps 
before the declaration of war, the greater part of 
whom were still training in our schools. 



CHAPTER VII 

Battle of Flanders — Return to Verdun — Lufbery — Beau- 
ties of life in the air 

Suddenly on the 17th of July, a new change of 
scene. This time it was right to the other end 
of the front, in Flanders, that we were to go. 
What was to happen there? 

The pilots were delighted. "We're going to 
the sea-side," they said, and sure enough our 
field was right by the North Sea, a mile and a 
half south of Dunkirk, at a village called Saint- 
Pol-sur-Mer. 

We had no map to go there, so I gave the 
young pilots a simple method of find their way. 
"Just follow the battle line, keeping it on the 
right as far as Nieuport, that is to the sea; you 
will easily distinguish the trenches, the shell- 
holes and the rows of 'sausages.' You cannot 
make a mistake. When you reach Nieuport, 
follow the coast backwards on your left until 

133 



134 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

you reach a town — Dunkirk." None of them 
went wrong, but Doolittle, whose first flight with 
us it was, lost sight of his companions and tackled 
two enemy planes, who were assailing an Eng- 
lish "sausage." He was brought down by them 
slightly wounded in the face. On our way we 
flew over Peronne and Bapaume, which were en- 
tirely destroyed. The region between them was 
everywhere pitted with shell-holes, not a spot any- 
where to land in throughout this zone twenty- 
five miles long and thirteen wide. The country 
was a desert and the rich soil of Picardy was 
itself destroyed forever. 

We perceived yet another martyred city — Ar- 
ras. Its mutilated belfry was still standing 
proudly under the fire of the enemy guns. We 
passed over Vimy on whose famous ridge so 
much French and British blood had been spilt, 
then across Bethune, whose many chimneys were 
belching black smoke. Brave miners worked 
there day and night, even going far under the 
enemy's lines to extract from the only mines left 
to us the precious coal so needful for our in- 
dustries. When these miners came up from their 
pits they were forced to put on masks against the 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 135 

gas bombardments, which the Germans daily 
opened against them. They were true soldiers, 
those miners. 

On leaving Bethune — our Spads fly quickly — 
some of us made directly for Dunkirk via Cas- 
sel, perched curiously on the summit of its peak, 
while the rest flew in a curve over the hills of 
Flanders, the Red Hill, the Black Hill, and 
Kemmel, where the following year the German 
drive was to be arrested. Then past Messines, 
Ypres, dead city levelled with the ground, Dix- 
mude, the Yser and its floods of famous memory, 
Nieuport and then back along the coast to the 
aerodrome. With the exception of Doolittle, 
every one landed successfully on the sandy-field 
of Saint Pol; tents were rapidly put up, which 
formed a delightful summer camp in the fine 
weather that prevailed. 

Always while waiting for an attack there were 
a few days' respite, during which the intending 
assailant took care to show his aviation as little 
as possible and we pilots had consequently a 
brief period of rest. We naturally profited by 
the proximity of the sea to bathe a great deal. 
On this occasion my dog Fram showed once more 



136 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

his real intelligence. I had undressed on the 
sand and told him to watch my clothes while I 
was in the water some two hundred yards away. 
The tide was rising and was about to reach my 
uniform when to our amazement we saw the dog 
pick my clothes up in his jaws piece by piece and 
carry them up the shore well out of harm's way. 
All that without any orders, the clever fellow! 

After the bath we used to fish with big nets 
and our mess was plentifully supplied with fish 
and shrimps. Thaw went in for boat-building 
— at least he wanted to construct a raft with a 
sail. He had bought some old barrels and some 
planks and hammered away all one day. Un- 
fortunately the night was stormy and his raft 
was smashed before he had time to finish it to 
everybody's regret. 

Naturally my pilots played base-ball also. 
Surely every good American takes with him as 
absolutely necessary baggage a bat, gloves, and 
some balls. 

Some Canadians challenged us and inflicted 
a serious defeat upon us. I suppose the Giants 
or the Cubs would have defended the honour of 
the United States better than we did, as to make 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 137 

up the team, which was one man short, I played 
myself for the first time in my life. That fact 
alone gives one an idea of the quality of our per- 
formance. 

Dunkirk, an important sea-port, was moreover 
a very pleasant and well supplied town. Moni- 
tors were on guard before its harbour. They 
were able to float in such shallow water that the 
Boche submarines couldn't get in to torpedo them. 

Throughout the day there was a continual go- 
ing and coming of ships bringing shells and sup- 
plies from England, following the protected chan- 
nel along the coast. 

We were on the best of terms with our English 
and Belgian comrades and paid each other many 
visits. The British sailors often came to see us, 
and I remember two receptions offered us by the 
officers of the Coastal Motor Boats. These offi- 
cers used to sally forth with only one seaman 
as crew in little power boats, armed with a sin- 
gle torpedo. Every night they cruised up and 
down before Ostende and Zeebrugge waiting a 
chance to pull off a good coup. A hard life, but 
one which they passionately enjoyed. Their ex- 
istence on these little craft was no safer than on 



138 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

our aeroplanes with which it had many points in 
common, which perhaps accounted for the sym- 
pathy between us. 

Belgium was not far off, at least all of it that 
was left. The Royal family lived at La Panne, 
a seaside place where before the war people of 
moderate means, who could not afford the luxury 
of Ostend, used to spend the holidays. That 
heroic soldier, the King, was often there. One 
day we went there to get some supplies, especially 
sugar and tobacco. On our return Soubiran con- 
ceived the idea of telling the pilots who had 
stayed at home that we had met the King, that 
we had been introduced by a Belgian officer, and 
that the Sovereign had promised to visit the Es- 
cadrille to see the lions which interested him very 
much and decorate with his own hand all the pi- 
lots who had not yet received decorations. This 
yarn was believed and the young pilots impa- 
tiently awaited the Royal visit, while the Mess 
President made elaborate preparations to give the 
Royal guest a worthy reception. 

How we laughed when the joke was exploded. 
I hope King Albert will pardon us. 

As training while awaiting the offensive, we 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 139 

threw bombs attached under our monoplanes at 
floating buoys. We let them fall by means of 
a lever after having dived straight down upon 
the target. Our superiors intended to make us 
execute a great offensive operation against the 
enemy aerodromes on the morning of the attack 
to destroy all the machines still in their nests 
right at the outset. We were supposed to let 
fall our bombs from a very low altitude, less 
than 150 feet from the soil, to set on fire and 
destroy the hangars, then fire our machine guns 
at every machine which might try to come out 
or fly away, and knock over mechanics and pilots 
like ninepins. Machines were set aside to pro- 
tect the operation at different altitudes and others 
to attack all anti-aircraft defenses from a very 
low position. 

Often operations of this kind, in which the 
English were past-masters, succeeded perfectly. 
Once a single Spad set on fire four enemy planes 
before they could leave the ground, but on the 
31st of July, the day the offensive began, there 
also started a veritable deluge, which no one who 
fought in Flanders that year will ever forget. 
Compared to it Noah's celebrated flood was only 



140 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

a passing shower. All the aerial operations 
were greatly curtailed in consequence. 

The offensive itself was not a little hampered. 
The first day the ground was still comparatively 
hard and a fine advance was made up to the out- 
skirts of Houthulst forest. But in this spongy 
soil, where the water oozed through very rapidly 
and made any trench work impossible, what we 
wanted was exceptionally dry weather. 

As it was there was no possibility of transport- 
ing munitions and food or of digging shelters. 
Trenches had to be made above the ground with 
sacks of earth built up and consequently both 
visible and easy to destroy. 

The offensive stopped automatically despite 
its brilliant debut. During the glimpses of fine 
weather all the aviation services, French, English 
and Belgian, were out at once to put them to the 
best advantage. On the other side the Rich- 
thofen circus was on the job. There were fan- 
tastic melees over Roulers, the Allies being dis- 
tinctly superior. There was great rivalry 
amongst them, but Guynemer was far ahead of 
every one. 

Besides the Boche there was considerable dan- 




Zeiijjelin brought down at ("onipiegne. 




Duriiiu thf advance Nesles Marcli l"!' 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 141 

ger of being attacked by an Ally. There were lots 
of novice pilots and a great diversity of machines, 
so that this happened quite frequently; it is 
much more difficult than the public imagines to 
distinguish friend from foe in the air. 

Our greatest Ace, whom I have just mentioned, 
was once so attacked by an Allied novice, and 
only managed to get rid of him by landing after 
various manoeuvres. His assailant, who by this 
time had realized his mistake, did the same and 
hurried up to apologize. Guynemer replied 
curtly: "If I'd thought myself in danger there 
would have been only one thing for me to do — 
to bring you down." The other looked rather 
sick, but I need hardly say that the whole thing 
ended happily over a cup of tea. 

On coming back from a patrol every one be- 
fore landing used to perform the wildest aerial 
acrobatics over his field. The English declined 
to appear inferior in "stunting" to the French, 
but I think I can truthfully say that thanks to 
their Spad, which was in every way superior to 
the English Sopwith triplane, the French were 
decidedly ahead in this game. 

Moreover, it is the French who invented "stunt" 



142 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

flying. Several years before the war, on a tour 
through the United States, Garros, Audemars and 
Simon put up some remarkable performances in 
this line. Pegoud was the creator of the loop 
and most of the other stunts were perfected by 
Navarre, especially the spin. All these tricks 
were codified and taught to all the pilots in the 
war by Simon, who, as Captain Instructor at the 
Pau school, trained several thousand fighting 
pilots, so the French had a longer experience be- 
hind them. 

By night the bombing Voisins, who shared our 
field, used to go out to work in their turn. Their 
great enemy was the fog, which rises very sud- 
denly at the seaside. In the daytime fog is al- 
ready a great danger for the airman, especially 
when it hangs very low. If the pilot gets caught 
in it, he doesn't know where he is going and is 
unable even to tell what is the position of his 
machine. At 125 miles an hour he is liable to 
crash against the first obstacle that he meets with- 
out even knowing it is there. 

By day one can see fog banks far off on the 
horizon and land before going into them, but by 
night it is difficult to land anywhere else but on 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 143 

a field that has been provided with abundant 
lights. 

One night, while our Voisins were away, the 
fog rose and covered the field. The searchlights 
and flares nevertheless indicated its situation by 
their light that was diffused through the fog so 
as to be visible from above, as the deadly curtain 
was of no great thickness. It was, however, bad 
enough to be altogether opaque to the eyes of the 
pilots and so when the Voisins came back they 
collected above the field and flew round, over 
the fog bank, in the hope that a welcome gust of 
wind would blow it away. 

One after the other the machines plunged into 
the milky bank, then darted up again imme- 
diately, shaving the hangars. It was a terribly 
anxious time for us who could hear the hum of 
their motors above our heads and appreciate their 
danger. For them it must have been a frightful 
experience. Their gasoline gave out and one by 
one they had to take the chance of landing 
through the fatal bank. Everyone of them 
crashed on landing through judging the distance 
wrongly. Fortunately, no one was killed though 
there were many wounded, but I am sure that all 



144 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

those pilots will remember that raid for many a 
long day. 

We were not destined to stay long at Dun- 
kirk as the Flanders offensive was discontinued 
on account of the bad weather. In war it is no 
good being obstinate and if a thing fails it should 
be abandoned immediately and another blow pre- 
pared elsewhere. What was the result of the 
German stubbornness before Verdun in 1916 save 
to cut into pieces six hundred thousand of their 
men without any advantage to show for it ? 

As it happened the French High Command 
was preparing a new offensive at this very Ver- 
dun, where calm had reigned for a considerable 
length of time. We were naturally invited to 
take part in the show as we were in all of them, 
for Headquarters employed the Lafayette Esca- 
drille just as it did the crack French units — no 
mean tribute to our American pilots. 

Our new field was 250 miles away, but our 
Spads could cover this distance in less than two 
hours. Immediately on receipt of the order, we 
went off the 11th of August to Senart, a village 
situated just on the southern edge of the Argonne 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 145 

forest near the source of the Aisne. After the 
sea the forest — what more could we ask? A 
piece of good news was awaiting us there; three 
months before the Escadrille had been proposed 
for a citation in Army Orders by Commander 
Fequant, Head of our Group, and he was pleased 
to inform us that the General in Chief, Petain, 
had just granted it. Here is the text of the cita- 
tion : 

"Order of General Headquarters No. 17946 
August 15th, Escadrille No. 124 (Lafayette). 

"Escadrille composed of American volunteers 
who have come to fight for France in the purest 
spirit of sacrifice. Has carried on ceaselessly, 
under the command of Captain Thenault, an 
ardent struggle against our enemies. 

"In very heavy fighting and at the cost of se- 
rious losses, which far from weakening it, exalted 
its morale, has brought down 28 enemy planes. 

"Has roused the deep admiration of the chiefs, 
who have had it under their orders, and of French 
Escadrilles, which, fighting beside it, have wished 
to rival its courage." 



146 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

We had no need of this official testimonial 
to stimulate us, but we were about to find ourselves 
in the hardest sector we had ever flown 
over, 

A great part of the German aviation from 
Flanders had preceded us to this new sector. It 
is true that as a result of the concave form of the 
front the Germans had only the chord of the arc 
to fly across, while we had the arc itself. The 
Germans were generally forewarned of all our 
offensives by the great concentrations of artillery 
which then preceded every attack. Even if they 
hadn't seen the assembled batteries they could 
not have failed to be enlightened by the thunder- 
ous din of the preparation. 

In 1917 an attack never took place without at 
least three days of "drum fire." Whereas in 
1918, after the experience of the British at Cam- 
brai with their tanks, artillery preparations only 
lasted two hours at the outside and were some- 
times omitted altogether. The results were much 
better because thus there was surprise, a primor- 
dial factor of success. 

We were pleased — which is one way of putting 
it — to meet again at Verdun our old acquaint- 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 147 

ances the "Tangos." This Boche formation was 
so-called because the body of its planes was 
painted the exact orange shade called tango. As 
they were there we had to meet them in good 
spirits which we did. They were among the 
most famous of the German flying men, and the 
game was fast and furious from the start. To 
get our hand in we began by going to bomb them 
several days running, that is to say we protected 
the bombing machines. In the course of one of 
these expeditions Willis went down fighting 
bravely. It was a heavy loss for the Escadrille, 
for with his trained and intelligent brain he al- 
ways brought back from his trips information 
that was greatly prized by the High Command. 
It is very hard to make good observations in a 
single-seater. Willis had made a specialty of 
it and thanks to the speed of his machine, he was 
able to go to places where the slower two-seaters 
could not have ventured without being brought 
down. 

After several weeks of anxiety w^e learned that 
our friend was only prisoner and I was very glad 
to have written to his mother my hope that this 
was the case. She received my letter at almost 



148 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

the same time as the definite news from Ger- 
many. 

"I am keeping your letter as one of my most 
precious jewels," she replied to me, "for I am 
happy to see from it that his superiors always 
considered him a man of character. I hope that 
as a prisoner my son will still serve his coun- 
try." 

During this war I have received numerous let- 
ters from American mothers. The attitude of 
these mothers was admirable, and their sentiment 
of sacrifice and self-forgetfulness was worthy of 
Cornelia the mother of the Gracchi. 

Willis tried to escape and managed to succeed 
some time before the armistice by swimming 
across the Rhine. 

At the same period, September, 1917, another 
American, who was flying with a French Esca- 
drille in our Group, was brought down on one 
of his first outings. He was a desperate fighter. 

After capture he determined to escape — no mat- 
ter how. As a weapon he had only a clasp knife. 
During his flight four sentinels, one after the 
.other, loosed on him their dogs, fired at him and 
missed. But he did not miss three of them, for 




The \'iaduct of Dannemarie destroyed bv a bombardment of heavy calibre. 




r 






'affr:^K^~:*^rr~.iBi 



Tlie effects of a heavy calibre shel 





^ 


r£^i 


^^^SMbHHh^ 


^ 

^ 


3 


^IpJ^ — ^ — - 



How the bombs were placed and let fal 




Assembly for orders before leavin;; on first ])atrol. No emotion visible. 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 149 

with the aid of darkness he cut the throats of all 
three. Think of his fate if he had been recap- 
tured ! But he was determined to come back and 
fight at all costs, for he felt that he had not yet 
done enough. How could Germany hope to con- 
quer men like that? 

But to return to our "friends" the Tangos. 

In the September sky, whose blue was softened 
by the gentle and misty white, how fine and thrill- 
ing was the meeting of two patrols. First the 
ruse in approaching; each one trying to get the 
sun behind him so as to blind the opponent; 
then the decision to attack which once taken made 
you forget everything else. A tiger leaping on 
its defenceless prey, an eagle swooping on a timid 
hare, cannot have more confidence in their own 
strength than the pilot who grasps his controls 
with firm hands and fixing his eye on the sight of 
his machine gun to calculate the corrections to 
be made, aims at a certain part of the enemy's 
machine and coolly lets death loose by pulling his 
little lever. Yet those are seconds of emotion 
which are well worth living. Compared to that, 
hunting the royal tiger or the grizzly bear is but 
child's play. It is life in its greatest intensity 



150 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

when you see your adversary smitten with his 
death blow, falling to join the dust of the earth, 
like a shot pheasant, which falls head down- 
ward through the air. And when the two op- 
ponents, each having missed the other, try to 
dodge one another in an infernal whirl, each 
one describing circles more and more narrow so 
as to catch the other in his field of fire, and when 
more skilful you are master of the situation and 
force the enemy to headlong flight, even if you 
have not succeeded in bringing him down, your 
motor sings clear in the heavens and there is a 
note of triumph in its purr. You forget for a 
moment all the dangers that lurk in the blue sky, 
you forget those who have fallen or that a mo- 
ment hence you may fall in your turn. 

No, you think only of your work because you 
are a man, because there is an enemy, and because 
you must beat him. 

Certainly the pilot without suspecting it pos- 
sesses at this moment the same mentality as the 
cave man defending himself and his family with 
a club against the attacks of wild beasts. And 
I prefer this simple and brutal mentality to that 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 151 

which is too often produced by centuries of so- 
called civilization. 

Moreover, you are in the space of heaven, you 
climb to dizzy heights and the power of your 
motor frees you from weight, which is always 
like a ball chained to the foot of other mortals. 
You can descend with the greatest ease at the 
undreamt and unheard of speed of 250 miles an 
hour. Falls of 3000 feet are nothing. The air 
itself is an amazing shock absorber, and its 
depths are there to receive you more gently than 
the net breaks the thirty foot fall of a tight-rope 
dancer. The two hundred and fifty horses of 
your engine obey the lightest pressure of your 
fingers or your most trifling whim. You are 
their master and in addition to the joys of flying 
you taste the joys of victory. 

It is easy to understand that hundreds of men 
became passionately devoted to this superterres- 
trial existence and gave up all to it, even their 
lives. 

The Tangos might come. With their brave 
comrades of the French army the pilots of the 
Lafayette Escadrille were there. High up in the 



152 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

sunlight, tiny motes shone, dived and manoeuvred. 
They were men, sitting on machines of wood and 
canvas. The machine guns uttered the savage 
tic-tac of their deadly song. The incendiary 
bullets of the Germans left in the air great white 
trails, phosphorous bullets they were, whose poi- 
soned wounds were always mortal — an unpleas- 
ant thing to remember when you saw them pass 
through your planes. One had to defend one's 
self and the best fashion of defence, is it not at- 
tack? So we attacked. 

Above all the pilots who found themselves at 
Verdun was Lufbery "without fear and without 
reproach" like Bayard the loyal knight of Garig- 
liano bridge. His Spad was always the highest 
and every day he won new victories. He seemed 
to hardly care about having them confirmed. 
Calmly he reigned as sovereign lord in his chosen 
element and beat down his foes to accomplish his 
duty and not for the sake of glory. 

It was worth seeing him appear above the for- 
est of Argonne and come down into our green 
meadow, bordered by the tall poplars which rise 
beside the river Aisne. 

Each pilot can be recognized by his flight, but 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 153 

Lufbery stood out by the mastery and ease with 
which he executed his daring renversements and 
all the acrobatic stunts. Almost all pilots can 
perform them mechanically, but only the real 
artists can perform them gently and without 
roughness so as not to bring any abnormal strain 
upon the planes of the machine. Lufbery al- 
ways landed with the greatest skill. He never 
harmed his machine, but, on the other hand, one 
could often mark on it the savage traces of battles 
in which it had been engaged. 

He made his report very briefly and when the 
occasion offered used to paint, smiling broadly, 
a tiny red bar on one of the struts of his plane 
to indicate a new victory. 

His simplicity was remarkable. During his 
leisure hours he used to work with the mechanics, 
who adored him, in perfecting details of his ma- 
chine and machine-gun. When everything was 
ready, his greatest joy was to go off with some 
comrades across country. He had been educated 
in France in the province of Auvergne before 
going off around the world, and he knew what 
was to be found in our fields as in those of other 
countries. He would often bring back game or 



154 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

mushrooms which gave the cook a chance to vary 
our menu. One of his favourite amusements 
was to go and play with the lions which he had 
adopted. In response the lions adopted him as 
master and recognized him amongst all of us. 
It was a sight to see the brave Whiskey, when 
he spotted Lufbery, hurl himself upon him at 
full gallop as if to devour him, but it was to 
devour him with caresses — the caresses of a lion 
who can hide his terrible claws so as not to harm 
his friends. Lufbery was the only one for whom 
Soda was good and gentle. Was not that the 
proof of a great personal power that even the 
wild beasts should appreciate his influence? 

When it was fine Lufbery at once busied him- 
self with his machine and took it out for a volun- 
tary patrol. He had to be given positive orders 
to keep him from being always in the air. To 
fly high is very fatiguing as the sudden changes 
of altitude quickly tire the heart. But never have 
I met a pilot with more endurance than Lufbery. 
When the sky was clear he would go up three 
or four times a day to eighteen thousand feet 
just for his own pleasure, in a dilettante fashion. 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 155 

Never was he at all ill from it. He was a super- 
man. . . . 

The Tangos were only men and Lufbery gave 
them a hard life. 

This second battle of Verdun was, as everyone 
knows, a wonderful success. Although the enemy 
was expecting it the attack was carried out with 
so much dash that Hill 304, the Mort Homme 
and its tunnels, were all retaken in a single drive 
and in the same shock thousands of prisoners 
fell into our hands with hundreds of guns. 

The reaction was sharp, especially on the right 
bank of the Meuse. With devilish ingenuity the 
Boches had just invented or rather begun to util- 
ize a new toxic gas that was really terrible, 

I refer to Yperite or mustard gas. This gas 
spread by means of shells, was greatly dreaded 
on account of the long time it hung about and 
the ease with which it impregnated everything — 
ground, huts, equipment, clothes, even the hair. 

In contact with the skin it formed sulphuric 
acid causing frightful burns, and if one was so 
unfortunate as to breathe it the lungs shrivelled 
up like old leather. Death followed after ter- 



156 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

rible suffering. Naturally our chemists quickly 
learned all about it and our factories began man- 
ufacturing it to such an extent that when the 
following year we gave it them back tenfold, 
our enemies had the incredible audacity to pro- 
test against its use. 

Despite the Yperite our troops held firm, 
though they had to wear their masks all the time, 
which the great heat rendered very uncomfort- 
able. 

We, aviators, had no time to waste. Apart 
from fighting proper, that is the destruction of 
enemy's aviation, we had had before the attack 
to ensure the protection of bombing squadrons 
far behind the enemy's lines. And on days of 
attack we were expected to accompany the as- 
saulting waves, searching out with our machine 
guns the ripples of ground where reserves might 
be hiding and hurling light bombs upon them. 
We had too in some cases to go and verify in- 
formation, or even take photographs with an au- 
tomatic apparatus. Willis in Flanders brought 
back some very interesting photographs with his 
single-seater. 

To protect their machines the Escadrilles of 




Karman IJonib Plane. 




Farnian Bomb Plane 




A Xieuport in full flight. 




A Xieuport in friendly combat with a Farnian. 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 157 

artillery aviation often asked us to act as guards. 
For this work no fighting Escadrille was more 
sought after than our own. That was very com- 
plimentary. The sheep were always delighted 
with their watch-dogs and that is a proof that 
the wolves were kept at a distance. 

One day, during one of these protective mis- 
sions in charge of Lt. de Maison Rouge, de 
Laage's successor, our patrol brought down an 
enemy plane which was trying to attack a ma- 
chine protected by us. Peterson distinguished 
himself in this battle which was fought just above 
Montfaucon, the famous hill of which we were 
trying to get a photograph. A year later the 
American army was to carry this historic hill 
brilliantly by assault. 

That gallant and excellent pilot Bridgman also 
did very good work during this whole period, 
never sparing himself in the slightest. On one 
occasion Lufbery saved the life of Parsons and 
myself by protecting us from a Tango which we 
hadn't seen, as its approach was hidden from 
view by our planes. Just as he was about to 
attack us, Lufbery, whom I always placed above 
the patrol to dominate the situation, dived sud- 



158 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

denly, which woke my attention and I perceived 
the intruder. What a hunt followed over Forges 
Wood! He escaped us by diving so sharply 
that I was surprised not to see his wings give 
way, as sometimes happened with their Albatros. 
The Spad was the only machine which enabled 
one to dive without fear of the consequences and 
often in diving on an enemy plane, which in turn 
dived to escape, one had the pleasant surprise of 
seeing it come to pieces in the air without a shot 
having been fired. 

At this time a piece of sad news, at first whis- 
pered and which no one would believe, spread 
over the front; Guynemer was missing on the 
11th of September. The Germans, however, 
made no mention of the fact. If they had known 
it there is not the least doubt that their radios 
would have announced the fact throughout the 
world as a brilliant victory. For it was one in- 
deed. . . . 

We liked to think of him as invincible, and 
yet when one came to think of it, was it not 
rather natural to feel that that was the fate which 
awaited all fighting pilots? Boelke and Immer- 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 159 

man, the German Aces, had been brought down 
by quite inexperienced adversaries. 

Two average pilots have an equal chance of 
winning. It's just a toss up and luck can't hold 
for ever. A spent bullet, fired by an unskilled 
hand is often enough. Think of the superhu- 
man skill which Lufbery required to reach his 
score and a half of victories (counting those that 
were not officially confirmed) or of Guynemer 
to get long past fifty, and Fonck, who the follow- 
ing year, was to get close to the hundred without 
ever being touched.^ 

It was only a long time after his disappear- 
ance that it was learned that Guynemer had fallen 
in mysterious circumstances near Poelcapelle in 
Flanders. The bombardment in that region was 
so intense that never a trace of his aeroplane was 
found. 

The greatest amongst us had fallen, but there 
were many fired by his example eager and ready 
to follow in the Master's footsteps. 

1 Fonck had a special trick of getting position to fire ... a 
trick that was very difficult to apply and only to be accomplished 
by an exceptional pilot. He fired at his victims from an angle of 
75° ahead and above them, out of their field of fire. To apply 
a method like this one needed to have a mastery in flight that 
was absolutely unrivalled. 



160 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

All September there was very hard fighting. 
Bigelow was wounded at the end of August by 
a bullet in the face and left us. Even our nights 
were very agitated. We were still on the same 
field as a group of night bombers, which is a 
thing to avoid if possible because their search- 
lights are bound to attract the riposte of the 
enemy's bombing squadrons. The latter at- 
tacked us furiously and not only us but the hos- 
pitals in the neighbourhood, for instance that of 
Vadelaincourt, where doctors and nurses were 
killed beside the wounded over whom they were 
working. But it was against us that the enemy 
came for preference, paying us several visits. 
On the first occasion, the 25th of September, 
there was little damage done, but two days later 
they came back in great force. Thaw and Luf- 
bery fired a machine gun from the ground against 
these unwelcome visitors. They were using 
tracer bullets and in other circumstances the fire- 
work effect would have been delightful to watch. 
The enemy machines came regularly over one 
after the other at intervals of a quarter of an hour 
at a very low altitude. When their bombs fell 
the ground shook at the terrific force of the ex- 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 161 

plosion. My pilots and I were sheltering in an 
open trench and one should have heard the jokes 
with which Hall kept up the spirits of his com- 
rades at each explosion. The classic joke, re- 
served for occasions when the situation became, 
shall we say, rather tiresome, was to ask recently- 
joined pilots ''Are you glad, boy, you've joined 
the army?" Pronounced with an inimitable 
twang this phrase always had a great success. 
In the midst of our laughter the enemy bullets 
whistled over our heads, for his airmen had set 
fire to one of our hangars and were shooting up 
the blaze to prevent us from extinguishing it. 

My mechanic, Michel Plaaporte, formerly 
working with Norman Prince, tried heroically 
to prevent the fire from spreading, and the ar- 
tillery work of Thaw and Lufbery, despite the 
fact that they were firing haphazard as they could 
see nothing, was not without results, for the next 
morning we found on the field a Boche map and 
airman's helmet all stained with blood. Their 
owner had certainly not got away unscathed. 
The destruction of our planes by this fire didn't 
have serious consequences for at this time we 
could get as many as we wanted. I sent all 



162 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

the pilots who had lost machines to get new 
ones in Paris. That was some consolation for 
them. 

On the 24th of September the brave MacMon- 
agle was killed in a fight by a bullet through the 
head. He fell in the forest of Hesse between 
the Argonne and Verdun. Mrs. MacMonagle, 
his mother, a really devoted war worker, was in- 
formed. She left for a moment the work of aid 
for wounded soldiers, which she was carrying on 
in Paris with such great devotion, and came to 
accompany her son to his last resting place. He 
was buried at Triaucourt. 

For the first time American soldiers, engineers 
working on a neighbouring railroad acted as 
guard of honour and fired the last salute over 
his grave. An American band played the funeral 
dirge. MacMonagle had fallen but America was 
coming. 

At Verdun one hundred and fifty hard fights 
were fought by the Lafayette Escadrille, but we 
could only manage to get five victories confirmed. 
We had one pilot killed, one wounded and one 
taken prisoner; the advantage was still on our 
side. 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 163 

Headquarters had not yet done with us for this 
year. We had to make yet another change of 
camp. It was without regret that we left our 
summer encampment, for the bad weather would 
be upon us in a month. We returned to our for- 
mer field at Chaudun. 



CHAPTER VIII 

Return to Chaudun — Trip to Champagne — Transfer of 
the Escadrille to the American Army — Farewell 

This time our duty was to take part in the Mal- 
maison offensive and the recapture of the whole 
Chemin des Dames, the offensive of October 
10th, which was wonderfully successful. More 
than 10,000 prisoners and hundreds of guns were 
captured. I was ill and had to leave the Esca- 
drille for a month, during which time Thaw took 
my place. 

Lieutenant Verdier-Fauvety had replaced 
Lieutenant de Maison Rouge and had rapidly 
won the affection of the American pilots and 
given me the most valuable assistance. He had 
just escaped death in the most remarkable man- 
ner. At 10,000 feet altitude he had collided with 
another Spad and the two damaged planes fell 
in a spin from which they were unable to recover. 

164 




After the bombardment. 



I 



m 






MSinTEUGSHMS.ItffllWS 



'/ 



r f I J I 







^kMlik' 



*^^-> 



■•« -♦. 



._i 









After the bombardment. 




Gerir.an machine brought (]o\vii near the second line. 




Gei-nian machine biouglit down by Ltifbci'y. 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 165 

By extraordinary luck both he and his comrade 
came down on some trees and both got off with 
trifling injuries. The following year he died 
fighting bravely while in command of an Esca- 
drille. De Maison Rouge met the same fate. 

During the preparation for the offensive the 
daring Campbell was killed in a fight over the 
famous Ailette reservoir. He fell into a marsh 
and was buried at Pargny by the Germans. 
Jones, who had taken part in the fight, came back 
with three of his control wires cut by bullets ; 
he had had a narrow escape. About this time 
James Hall, recovered from his wound, rejoined 
the Escadrille. 

The first day of the attack Lufbery brought 
down six enemy machines. Unfortunately they 
could not all be confirmed as the infantry was in 
full movement and the control services were nat- 
urally somewhat disorganized in consequence. 
They had other work to do. However, several 
French aviators supplied unofficial confirmation. 
Lufbery was at this time in marvelous form. 

Thaw, Verdier, James Hall, Peterson, Bridg- 
man. Parsons, Marr, Soubiran, Dugan, Jones, 
etc., continued to do excellent work. They at- 



166 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

tacked the enemy "sausages" frequently and set 
a number of them on fire. 

The battle continued throughout October. 
Ford came to join the Escadrille, the last recruit 
we were to receive. November was calm on ac- 
count of the weather and incessant fogs. We 
took advantage of it to pay frequent visits to the 
pleasant Hotel de la Chasse at Villers-Cotterets. 

It was then that Commander Fequant getting 
anxious at the size of our lions — for Whiskey was 
now bigger than a very large Great Dane — or- 
dered us to get rid of them. He permitted us to 
take them to the Zoological Garden in Paris, to 
which we had already determined to give them 
when the time came. At present (June, 1919), 
Whiskey is still there though suffering greatly 
from rheumatism contracted during the severe 
winter of 1916 on the Somme, where he shared 
our draughty sheds. I went to see him and 
though he recognized and came to the front of 
the cage to lick my hand, he seemed to be suffer- 
ing a great deal, and I am afraid that he will 
not long survive his companion Soda who died 
of the same ailment. 

We were very sad to think that we were losing 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 167 

our mascots and to see them condemned to im- 
prisonment for life. Whiskey gave us no trou- 
ble on the trip to Paris, but Soda, whom by the 
way we had never succeeded in taming to the 
same extent as her companion, behaved badly, 
showing ill temper just when one expected it 
least and when she reached Paris refused to come 
out of her box to enter the cage where she was 
to pass the rest of her days. 

She fell into a furious passion and as she 
could easily have torn a hand off any of us we 
didn't insist and put off the business of trans- 
ferring her until the morrow. 

Why was it that Soda was always much worse- 
tempered than good old Whiskey? . . . Insolu- 
ble mystery of the caprices of the feminine 
soul. . . . 

On December 2nd Lufbery brought down two 
planes one after the other, thus celebrating the 
anniversary of the Battle of Austerlitz. 

On the following day Headquarters sent us 
to Champagne, where the Boche by immense 
camouflage preparation gave the impression they 
were about to attack. 

We established ourselves at La Noblette, north 



168 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

of Chalons. The Escadrille Lafayette No. 124 
had thus covered the whole front and every sec- 
tor. 

The weather began to be very cold and our 
sheds were open to the wind and the snow. 
Luckily Chalons was quite close and we could 
easily get supplies. Perhaps on account of the 
cold, which always gave a lot of trouble with the 
lubrication, there was a considerable lull in aerial 
activity. 

The moment of transfer to the American army 
was drawing near and formed the subject of all 
our thoughts. It took place on January 1st, 
1918, as arranged, and the Lafayette Escadrille 
became the first American fighting Escadrille 
with the number 103. It kept, however, its 
French mechanics and material. I left it with 
deep regrets and many pleasant memories. 

This Escadrille was in turn the nucleus of a 
fighting group, the first, which was formed al- 
most immediately and of which Thaw remained 
in charge. Lufbery went off to organize another 
and some months later, setting as always the ex- 
ample, met a glorious death in battle. He fell 
in Lorraine near Toul. There died there a very 




Baby Xieuport armed with Lewis gun firing over the propeller. 




Country in Alsace — Thann Valley. 




An aviation field in Alsace. — Romagny. 




Machine destroyed by storm (May l'^16). 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 169 

wonderful personality and his death was an in- 
calculable loss to the Allies. His friends will 
never cease to regret him. 

In 1918 the Aviation of the United States be- 
came strongly organized and at the armistice it 
had reached the imposing proportions that all 
the world knows. The Lafayette Escadrille was 
largely drawn upon to organize these new forces. 
All the pilots became Commanders of Escadrilles 
and gave their younger comrades the benefit of 
their experience. By the force of their example 
new Aces were to appear. 

But my task is finished and I leave to others 
the work of following them through these new 
battlefields. In these pages I have tried to give 
a faithful account of this nucleus of the great 
American air fleet, and to show the noble senti- 
ments which had brought these pioneers amongst 
us long before the brutality of facts had moved 
the unanimous feeling of the nation. It will be 
the honour of my life to have commanded them. 

Let us bow low before them and salute them 
very respectfully. Glory to all these volunteers. 
Glory to all these noble heroes, these noble fore- 



170. THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

runners. The Nation which bore them is a great 
nation, and I am sure that Remembrance will 
keep fresh their names and teach their deeds to 
its children and children's children. 

To my former comrades in arms, to all those 
who have fallen, I can give the assurance that 
despite her sufferings France will never forget 
them in her eternal gratitude. 



THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 



171 



List of pilots who served in the Lafayette Escadrille from 
its formation April 16, 1916, until the day when it was 
transferred to the American Army {January 1, 1918). 



THENAULT, Georges, Captain com- 
manding the Escadrille (12/ 4/16 

De LAAGE De MEUX (16/4/16 

CHAPMAN, Victor (20/ 4/16 

PRINCE, Norman (20/ 4/16 

MAC CONNELL, James (20/ 4/16 

ROCKWELL, Kiffin (20/ 4/16 

THAW, William (28/4/16 

HALL, Bert (28/ 4/16 

COWDIN, Elliot (28/ 4/16 

RUMSEY, Laurence ( 4/ 6/16 

BALSLEY, H (28/ 5/16 

LUFBERY, Raoul (24/5/16 

JOHNSON, Charles (28/ 5/16 

HILL, Dudley ( 9/ 6/16 

MASSON, Didier (19/ 6/16 

PAVELKA, Paul (10/ 8/16 

ROCKWELL, Robert (17/9/16 

PRINCE, Frederic (22/10/16 

SOUBIRAN, Robert (22/10/16 

HAVILAND, Willis (22/10/16 

HOSKIER, Ronald Wood (14/12/16 

GENET, Edraond (19/ 1/17 

PARSONS, Edwin (27/ 1/17 

BIGELOW, Stephen ( 8/ 2/17 

WILLIS, Harold ( 1/ 3/17 

HINKLE, Edward ( 1/ 3/17 

LOWELL, Walter ( 1/ 3/17 

HEWITT, Thomas (30/3/17 

MARK, Kenneth (30/ 3/17 

DUGAN, William (30/ 3/17 

CAMPBELL, Andrew Courtney (16/ 4/17 

BRIDGMAN, Ray (2/5/17 

DREXEL, John (12/ 5/17 

DOLAN, Charles (12/5/17 

JONES, Henri (12/ 5/17 



( 1/ 1/18) 
(23/ 5/17) 
(24/ 5/16) 
(14/ 9/16) 
(19/ 3/17) 
(23/ 9/16) 
( 1/ 1/18) 
(10/11/16) 
(25/ 6/16) 
(25/11/16) 
(19/ 6/16) 
( 1/ 1/18) 
(15/ 4/17) 
( 1/ 1/18) 
(30/ 1/17) 
(24/ 1/17) 
( 1/ 1/18) 
(14/ 1/17) 
( 1/ 1/18) 
( 2/ 9/17) 
{2Z/ 4/17) 
(17/ 4/17) 
( 1/ 1/18) 
(11/ 9/17) 
(18/ 8/17) 
(15/ 6/17) 
( 1/10/17) 
(14/ 9/17) 
( 1/ 1/18) 
( 1/ 1/18) 
( 5/10/17) 
( 1/ 1/18) 
(21/ 7/17) 
( 1/ 1/18) 
( 1/ 1/18) 



172 THE LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE 

De MAISON-ROUGE, Arnoux (28/ 5/17) (15/ 9/17) 

PETERSON, David (12/ 6/17) ( 1/ 1/18) 

HALL, James (16/ 6/17) ( 1/ 1/18) 

MAC-MONAGLE, Douglas (15/6/17) (24/9/17) 

DOOLITTLE (3/7/17) (17/7/17) 

VERDIER-FAUVETY ( 6/10/17 ) ( 1/ 1/18) 

FORD, Christophe ( 7/11/19) ( 1/ 1/18) 



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